Public performance of watching: discussion

Hi Rule Group,

I hope you had are having good summers. Mine too busy. No watching sad face.

I was approached by Amanda Herman who runs Live Art Magazine, a live art-based variety show that has an emphasis on work that is created for the show and isn’t documented other than by artists’ sketches, to have the Watching Club participate in this year’s show on Oct 21. This year’s theme is “listening,” and Amanda thought that The Watching Club had an interesting resonance with the theme.

The website is here:

It’s held at the Academy of Music, an old theater (think opera-house eque if you don’t know it) music venue run by the City of Northampton.

One of my professors (J… V…) recommended us. I typed up a few proposals (including a bunch that didn’t involve The Watching Club), and the Watching Club is the one that Amanda is interested in.

I told her I would approach the Rule Group to see if we can do it – and if we think it fits within the scope of what The Watching Club should do.

Below was the draft proposal, in the format she requested (part 2 is a list of tech requirements):

1.       The Watching Club. Members of the Watching Club who are able to attend (I have to round up our small club, which I probably can do) would sit in an opera box (or somewhere more subtle perhaps) and watch the audience for the entire duration of the show, according to the rules of The Watching Club ( At some point and for 4 minutes (or less), we would have the rules of the watching club scroll on a large screen, without audio commentary. Listed in the program would be a brief description of the club. (What I like about this option: it feels a little creepy and subversive – at the same time it performs as a kind of conceptual art – and it taps into the “listening” concept by bringing this to a few different levels.)

 2.       Tech: I’d need a projector capable of playing a video file, and I’d need some chairs set up in an opera box, and I’d want to distribute flyers or some other information about The Watching Club.


Thoughts:  OH, MAN!  This is great!! …

The watching Club MUST participate if it can. Watching those watching is the ultimate learning experience for us, no?
The West Coast rules committee gives a thumbs up to the idea.
YES! I am so excited to read these emails. I vote yes. I can’t wait to participate. I agree with Maureen. … Should we watch before this event as well?
Public performance of watching: discussion

Scheduling After A Cancellation: practice view

On Mar 28, 2016, at 5:15 PM, Kelly Carroll wrote:

I’m in I’m in!! Sorry I’ve been quiet. I see Chris in the halls often (my excuse for slacking on the email) I would like to watch this Sunday! I can ride a bus for three hours, right??

On Monday, March 28, 2016, Maureen MacLeod  wrote:

Is kelly out? Do you ever see her in the halls?  I don’t think it’s cheating but i bet she won’t do it w/o you.

We Can do convenience store following.


On Mar 28, 2016, at 4:27 PM, Christopher Janke  wrote:

I am hoping to update tonight.


Before I do, I want to propose a watch on a mode of mass transit for next Sunday. Is it cheating that I want to do this because I’ll be on a plane from LA? I promise to watch, although I won’t bring my own chair.


If it IS cheating, then I’ll have to postpone my participation till the following Sunday… in which case, I think I’ll propose the Convenince store and then to be followed by watching on a bus…




Christopher Janke

Scheduling After A Cancellation: practice view

Logistics Late March 2016

On Mar 17, 2016, at 8:33 PM, Christopher Janke  wrote:

Also, what do you two think about rescheduling the convenience store?

And the bus?


Sundays are usually good for me, but with spring break and other various etceteras.


Easter isn’t good, but the following Sunday should be ok. That work?

That’s fine. (MM)

And I know I need to update the rules. I’ll compile the notes from the discussions since the last update, and I’ll work on a draft to circulate.

And that,s fine. (MM)

Logistics Late March 2016

Watching and Creepiness and Surveillance

On Mar 17, 2016, at 8:16 PM, Christopher Janke wrote:

More questions for the rule group:

-Is the term “watching” creepy? Surveillance-esque? Is watching creepy? Is that ok?


My take CJ is: yeah, kinda creepy given the current surveillance state, but that resonance doesn’t (yet) bother me. Maybe we are surveilling the world already, and the government’s surveillance of us is both understandable and undesired or maybe something else… again, I turn to quantum physics as a kind of creepy parallel “spooky action at a distance” – maybe it’s spooky and not creepy? Maybe it’s both and unavoidable.


Watching is synonymous with the term “surveillance” if it is covert, hence, creepy, spooky, sneaky even deceitful. . If you are boasting about watching then you are, as are we, “studying”, and proud of it! What can be more honorable then studying! (MM)

Watching and Creepiness and Surveillance

Watch Cancelled

Got it.

If KC wants to watch i will watch.

On Mar 12, 2016, at 6:50 AM, Christopher Janke > wrote:

Yes. I’m unable to commit so we must postpone. Unless there are two other watchers.

From: MM
Sent: ‎3/‎12/‎2016 5:14 AM
To: CJ
Cc:  KC

Subject: Re: Rule Group

Just to clarify: Sunday’s watch is cancelled and will be rescheduled?


Watch Cancelled

Rules Discussion March 8-11 2016

On Mar 11, 2016, at 2:34 PM, Christopher Janke wrote:

Christopher Janke

From: MM
Sent: Friday, March 11, 2016 3:36 PM
To: CJ
Cc: KC
Subject: Re: Rule Group


On Mar 11, 2016, at 7:34 AM, Christopher Janke  wrote:

Some other issues that came up regarding Watching.


  1. Would we allow ourselves to watch a performance? Or would that kind of watching be somehow against the ethos of the group?

No, to performance.  It seems that watching something scripted is a different animal. I like the self discipline aspect. (MM)

  1. If The Rule Group and the Watchers are ever made up of different people, does that negate the claim or aim towards democracy? Could the Rule Group, if made up by a different set of people than the watchers, just lord it over the watching group?

Yes. I think if you are a rule-maker-non-watcher you are hoping to join the debate!  You do not get the debate privilege without the cold or boring part of trying to pay attention! Watching is not for pussies! Without watching one could possibly become a self-involved, bossy lord. (MM)
<So: In order to join the rule group, you must be part of the watching club. Do you have to do all the watches? How many watches before you get to join the rule group? How many skipped watches before you get kicked off the rule group? CJ>

Sounds like potential members don’t want to do the hard part? No one ever likes to wash the brushes!  I think watching as a member of the Watching Club is vital. Ideally, You have to watch at least twice to sit back and pontificate about it. However, if membership is contingent on being able to skip sessions whenever they are too hard…i will concede. I just know people will watch once and call it good ..but maybe that’s the nature of the beast and should be assimillated. (MM)

  1. I’ve just realized that I may not be able to participate on the 13th. I have a practicum that I’m doing and I don’t have full control over my hours, and I may have been booked to assist with the practicum during the same hours. I’m totally fine with others watching without me; I’m also up for rescheduling or for allowing it to be skipped and come back to it.

No skipping allowed. Reschedule or come back to it. (MM)

<So: Only I am not allowed to skip? Or are others also not allowed to skip? CJ>

I think i should have stated better. I meant to say that if you have to skip  we all should skip the session. It should be rescheduled for the sake of synchronicity. I don’t want others to watch without you– specifically me. (MM)

  1. Any other ideas for things we want to watch? Should we widen the scope? Narrow it? Blade of grass? Activity on a planet?

I listed some ideas at the bottom of the Mach 6 email. Did you miss it? I Love the blade of grass idea but i also suggested a mode of public transportation: escalator, elevator, bus station, busy bus stop…. (MM)

<Oh yes, I’d forgotten. Hmmm. How about ON a bus?> (CJ)

that would be good. Should there be a duration requirement? Like you have to go to north hampton and back? #43 sigh (MM)

  1. The looking/seeing/watching issue was again discussed. I said that I thought of seeing as more passive than watching, but others (especially visual artists) disagreed. They talk about “seeing” as core to the process of painting and representation and consider “seeing” as MORE active than watching.

It’s absolutely not more active. This is apples and oranges.  Used in different recipes.  I can see where a painter thinks “the art of seeing” (rolling my eyes) is the end all be all but that is then and this is now. The Watching Club is watching. (See below) Watching and seeing are equally active depending on the activity. Watching/seeing/looking  is being too casually thrown at us… We are watching people and are aware of the differences. (MM)

<hmm CJ>



I’d love to hear what you all think on these important matters!


Christopher Janke


From: CJ
Sent: Wednesday, March 9, 2016 8:59 AM
To: MM
Cc: KC
Subject: RE: Rule Group

More questions for the rule group.


  1. Looking versus watching versus seeing. Shona MacDonald, in reviewing the project for my midterm review, asked if we were watching or looking because in a way you could say we are “looking” for an aesthetic experience, or at least that is one of the possible, explicit reasons given for the exercise. I said maybe we are watching and trying to allow for an aesthetic experience, but to be honest when I’m watching, I am trying to create within myself a guided openness that allows me to find/ see/ look for/ watch beauty within the scene… Thoughts?

This sounds like a reviewing visual artist trying to relate. Ms. Mac Donald (who was my BEST Bud for 5 months and who I miss terribly) is delving into our watching concept with a gross generalization.  The Professor must try, in 15 minutes, to engage with the student. If Shona, however, were to become a member of a talking group she would be invaluable as I always found her comments right on the money.  Personally, I  subscribe to Clive Bell’s “Aesthetic Hypothesis” which, for me has been proven on a number of occasions. I have deliberately, for example, seen VG’s Starry Night twice and there was at least one onlooker each time sobbing: “…and I don’t even like Art!” So,for me , it’s now a scientifically proven theory. Something with significant form (obviously subjective) must evoke, from within, a unique and peculiar feeling. Those forms or objects that provoke that emotion are referred to as works of Art.  It is the ONLY time that peculiar feeling churns. That’s an aesthetic experience and it is the only way to evaluate what qualifies as art. One does not look for it. (MM)


Watching is the least passive action. I joined the Watching Club to “carefully observe”, “notice” and “inspect” not to “view”, “perceive”, “imagine”, “be conscious of” and not to visually “search”, “learn” or “understand” the subject. I watch therefore I patiently take notice in order to further develop and to hone in on the process of paying attention. Paying  attention, i have decided, is no instinct. It has to be practiced and studied  in the hopes that the acquiring of skill will lead to more predictable moments of aesthetic response!  (MM)

<I don’t really feel like I have a strong opinion on this. Just that “watching” seems right – neither passive nor pre-determined… CJ>


  1. Jacin, one of my fellow first-year grad students, said that the fact that we are bi-coastal and doing it synchronously activates all the space in between the watches. I like that idea. We have electrified the continental US for a few hours at a time.

I truly like this idea! I believe that synchronicity is the most integral  part of being a non, non-member of the Watching Club. It is, for me, the prime motivation for commitment.  Without synchronicity, there is no incentive; no raison d’être! Where’s the feeling of membership, i ask? When i watch “with” you i feel electrified…a sense of belonging which surely stimulates even the lowliest psychopath.

Say “hi” to Jacin i have fond memories of him and love his work. (MM)


<I will tell him you say HI. So maybe this answers the question about when a watch gets rescheduled: There have to be at least two watchers, or the watch is cancelled/rescheduled…. Does that make sense as a rule?> (CJ)


  1. I keep hearing that some others might join us, but I haven’t gotten e-mails about it yet. Rachel Steinberg, the curator of the NYPOP show and Shona both seemed interested…

People who won’t watch are three-hour-pussies! (MM)


  1. The question also came up about what we would do if, while watching, we saw a crime or some other emergency. I said that the rule group hasn’t stated a position but that I would interrupt the watching to help. The watching is not somehow sacred; perhaps it can help us create or recognize the sacred that is already present, but if the watch gets interrupted and if that somehow invalidated the watch such that it couldn’t be added to the list, that’s no big deal. If someone needs help, I will help them.

Now, this is what I call silly. It goes without saying…without listing…without ruling…without positioning. The Watching Club consists of a sub-set of the Humanity Club.  We are inherently willing to be interrupted to aid victims. It does not have to be listed unless it can succinctly be incorporated into the previously ruled “ten words” OR unless help is needed coincidentally, simultaneously during both  watches.  Then it MUST be listed. (MM)

<HA. I like that. CJ>


But this then raised the issue of watching the world. It could be argued that at any given time, someone needs help, and that when watching we are setting aside the needs of others for our own aesthetic pleasure. I have thoughts about this, but I must go to class now, and I’m interested in hearing what others say…

I am not of the mind that watching is for my aesthetic pleasure. This experiment does not have a specified goal of pleasure. As i stated above, under both 1 and 4, i am thinking about this as a scientific procedure heading to a specific result. Watching is to”listening” as “seeing is to “hearing.” The latter is accidental, if you will. (MM)

<There are those who would argue that of course it is for a kind of pleasure, ultimately, or you would not do it. It may not be a simple pleasure, but it is a pursuit that is for the self and so… well… I guess it’s a question of utility. Should we use our privilege, even if it’s just the minor privilege of 2 hours every few weeks, to watch and not to help those in need? CJ>


Helping others, an aging parent, a bloody victim, a colicky baby is not at all pleasurable but i would do it gladly.  I’m not equating pleasure and privilege.   There are many other reasons to do something that are selfish yet unpleasant.


My head hurts with all this today;-)    (MM)

Rules Discussion March 8-11 2016

Rule Discussion After Watch 2 Continued


After the last watch, here are what I know of as new issues for the rule group:

  1. Can watching group members watch under other parameters without the expectation of that watch being added to the list?

My take (CJ): Of course! It should be one of the best by-products of watching that watching happens more often, that is more keen attention gets paid all the time… and as far as “reporting” goes, I think it’s fine to use each other as people to talk to about the watching. I intend for my mid-semester review to introduce the watching group to professors and to ask them to engage in a abbreviated watch that will not be added to the list, that is, I intend to do this unless the rule group deems this inappropriate.


  1. Photos taken of the watchers or of what the watchers are watching but not by the watchers. Does this count as documentation?

My take (CJ): I think that it would be unproductive to prohibit non-members from taking pictures of what is going on. I did mention to one non-member who wanted to take a picture of what I was watching that documentation is officially not allowed by the group, and he didn’t take the picture. He did take a picture of me, as did one other person. I have no interest in trying to police non-members (or members), so I think that simply expecting members to mention the prohibition against documentation to interested parties who are trying to take pictures should suffice. What non-members do with that information is up to them and not of a concern for the group, that is until such point that non-member documentation threatens to inhibit watching, such as if the non-member involvement becomes planned in advance or if the non-member activity or documentation is too distracting or if the documentation starts to have any, even slight, significant relationship to the core activities.

Totally agree.  I can’t think of any reason for non-members to take pictures except for the purpose of documenting members activities for the non-member’s personal use? What non members do with the information will, naturally, concern me and will interrupt my watch. Paying attention will be directed away from the “subject” for a period of time and that troubles me. That misdirection of attention, though, could be interesting. Why is paying attention to one subject alone so hard? —a thought i have been ruminating over. In any case, stating that we prohibit documentation is sufficient and then we TRY to let it go. No policing.


  1. Becoming part of what is being watched; changing the scene by being in it.

My take (CJ): This is a significant issue because in certain situations, there is no way for watchers to be neutral. At some points, I was forced to concede that I was watching myself in certain ways, because of the social dynamic in the space or near the space or because of the way that watching changed the space.

I think this is a necessary part of watching. Watching alters what is watched, according to quantum mechanics. There are theories of consciousness that take quantum entanglement as evidence of consciousness’ core place in the motions of sub-atomic particles.

Like if  “a tree falls ….”?  I don’t think i can speak to quantum entanglement as evidence of consciousness or in sub -atomic particles.  This experiment has reawakened, in me, philosophical ideas: Stoicism and Metaphysics, in particular.  I am definitely not thinking about the science of consciousness.  Artistically or aesthetically speaking, i can see that my body is part of the “picture” and that is curious because, technically, i should be outside of the subject. I have previously pictured myself as part of an audience like in a theater but that breaks down as soon as someone observes me for a time. But i don’t see myself as capable of analyzing that further. If I start thinking about my consciousness i will immediately have to worry about the non-members’ picture-taking consciousness.   “If a tree falls in the forest” …..i don’t care, i guess.
I’m not saying these theories are correct. But I do think that pretending that watching doesn’t change is silly,

?? When/how did “silly” come into this?
particularly if we do so in conspicuous places. I wouldn’t want to ONLY watch in ways where my watching seemed to be a major disruption, but this is a real dynamic that I think we should acknowledge and incorporate into our “practice,” if merely by being conscious of how to set up our chair or of how items on the “to be watched” list might place us differently in relation to what is being watched and therefore place us more to the forefront or background of the “subject.”

Agree.  I have been thinking about putting an open sketch book and a pencil in my lap because plein air people tend, in general, to be respected and left alone. I do not intend to sketch, however.

  1. Is watching the same as “living in gratitude”? (I was asked this at the NYPOP opening)

My take (CJ): we don’t need any kind of official position, of course, but I see the rule group documentation as a place also for the consideration of such issues. I think that gratitude implies a secondary layer of processing, of positioning oneself in relation to what is being watched. Watching is key; appreciation is important but secondary; being grateful is yet another distance from the watching and appreciation that incorporates self-consciousness, not merely consciousness, if that makes sense. I’m curious to hear what others think.

Agree. I think you put it wisely and with sensitivity and I appreciate you for doing so. I feel much more strident because I hated the book and most self-help books. If someone had asked me if I was “living in gratitude” i would have said ” fuck no! I don’t need to PRACTICE feeling gratitude!  I don’t need a month-to-month workbook for feeling gratitude and you asking me that makes me feel totally ungrateful about  the state of the human condition! Are you voting for Trump!”  As a bookseller for 35 years, it is MHO that self-help books are written to and exploit the pocketbooks of people who are in the depths of some kind of anxiety.  I can barely entertain the idea that gratitude is something i have to process in relation to watching a mini mart. I am watching solely in order to become more knowledgeable about the process of paying attention.


And the list will be updated to say:


I like the idea of watching some mode of public transportation: an escalator, an elevator, a bus station– even a busy bus stop. However, i am open to anything.


Rule Discussion After Watch 2 Continued