Abstract

This essay addresses a recent exhibition phenomenon associated with time-based art: the striking preponderance of beds, beanbag chairs, and other horizontal viewing platforms in the staging of such work. Indeed, in black-box galleries around the world, viewers have been increasingly solicited to go horizontal. What might these new modes of display tell us about contemporary cultures of work when compared to historical examples from the 1960s, particularly in regard to the mass phenomenon known as “burnout” in the present? Might such novel conditions of reception shed light on the shifting interactions between humans and computers in what the ethnographer Marcel Mauss called nearly one hundred years ago, the “civilization of latitude”? Departing from Niki de Saint Phalle's She (1966)—an immersive media environment presented as a recumbent female figure—the essay argues that lying in the gallery chimes with technologies of work post-Internet, our incorporation of its media platforms, and the generalization of the network as a ubiquitous and ambient resource.

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Author notes

∗ With thanks to Lucy Hunter and Eric de Bruyn for comments and assistance. This essay was originally delivered as a lecture in several symposia: at the University of Basel; at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and at Yale University. An abiding preoccupation with the relationship between current and historical media linked all three conferences.