‘I think your reasoning regarding causes for the widening gap between observing social situations and actively participating in them is a decent start but misses quite a bit. I think modernity is premised on the notion of having to work less, but this is not due to technological innovation, but rather social reconfiguration. A state comes into being and we as citizens abstractly construct a relation to it. Really, this social organization is built on abstraction. You no longer borrow money from a trusted neighbor, but rather from a bank. You no longer are hired to work by a friend of your father, but by a corporation, etc. We continue to abstract ourselves, and this is particularly evident in performance art/the contemporary art world where this abstraction is both the tool used and the substrate on which is built arguments for useful contemplation. Indeed, having the time and space to be contemplative means you have abstracted, or removed yourself from the labor of killing (or gathering) and cooking your supper, washing your clothes, etc. In other words, art assumes and exploits the abstraction of the self that you (rightly) find taken to ridiculous extremes in some performance art.

At the same time there is an opposite motion, towards greater participation, towards engagement that is active and physical as well as intellectual. This may not be so visible in galleries, but projects such as flash mobs, and pop-up art performances, “curated” dinners, etc look to engage rather than observe. I am part of a group that convenes around an attentional practice in which we give a piece of public (or not) art a great deal of focused attention and this practice is remarkably rewarding. These different ways of relating to each other are happening, but perhaps not in this place where you are looking now.’