• Assembled Audience, 2018

    Historical accounts of leaders using applause as a barometer of public opinion date as far back as the Biblical Old Testament and ancient Rome. Techniques for manipulating public adulation are nearly as old: professional “ringers” or “claques” have been hired for millennia to induce crowds to applaud, loudspeakers at Nazi rallies in Nuremberg amplified chants of “Heil Hitler!” across the masses, and today, artificial bots leave likes and comments online, while firms like Crowds On Demand and Easy Work provide enthusiastic audiences for hire. Recent studies have referred to applause as a “social contagion,” where participation is not necessarily a conscious show of affirmation, but rather often the result of discomfort at nonconformity.

    Assembled Audience draws on the notion of engineered applause, gathering individuals with varying political, corporate, and ideological allegiances into a single crowd. Over a one-year period, Taryn Simon has worked with a team of local producers in Columbus, Ohio, to solicit recordings of applause from individuals attending each event held at three of the city’s largest venues: the Greater Columbus Convention Center, Nationwide Arena, and Ohio State University’s Jerome Schottenstein Center. Colors sampled from the main interior walls and flooring at these three venues were averaged by Simon to generate the central prism’s wall color and the color of the carpet.

    Columbus—nicknamed “Test City U.S.A.”—closely mirrors the nation’s demographics, including education, ethnicity, and income. Located in the heart of the most accurate bellwether state, Columbus is a critical gauge for predicting political outcomes and testing new commercial products for companies including McDonald’s, Victoria’s Secret, and Kroger. Every successful presidential candidate over the past two decades has campaigned at one or more of the venues in Assembled Audience.

    The title of each event is documented on the gallery wall, along with the names of the individuals recorded. Recordings will continue to be collected over the course of the exhibition and added to Simon’s composition. The installation uses a program to randomize the selection of individual recordings: the same crowd never gathers twice.