Ella de Burca:Modes of Spectating: How to Act

Doctoral Project

Ella de Burca, PhD in the Arts

I will question methods of spectator engagement from the early 20th century to contemporary society, to examine the role of socio-political forces on reception, engagement and discourse of contemporary visual art. This research will inspire a new performative work, highlighting the agency of contemporary art in provoking the status quo.

I will create a genealogy of improvisatory and public-based performance work responding to modes of spectatorship, from those which attempted spectator provocation (e.g. futurism, fluxus) to early modernist performances which provoked violent riots, though the prism of theory relating to the role of culture (The Frankfurt School), in order to explore visual art's role as a catalyst for violent reactions brewing in wider society.

This will clarify a position towards audience participation in contemporary society, examining how precarity resulating from contemporary neoliberal socio-economic trends, as well as the role of spectatorship via the internet, had impacted critical engagement with visual art. 


  • Dr. Isolde Vanhee (supervisor, KU Leuven/LUCA)
  • Mrs. Kate Strain (co-supervisor, Grazer Kunstverein)

Research unit: Image

Duration: 2018 - 2022