Dustin Luke Nelson travels from Astoria, New York this week to break a world record—with you at Open Field. Thursday night Nelson, along with two time keepers, two sound engineers, two official witnesses, a videographer and a small army of loyal clappers will work together to break the Guinness World Record for Longest Continuous Applause by a Group. The goal? Two hours of continual applause that never for a moment reaches below eighty decibels, all carefully carried out according to Guinness protocol.
Nelson’s creative projects most frequently reside in the literary and film realms. He has authored a chapbook; he is a founding editor of the literary magazine InDigest; his video poetry has been screened in numerous locations. But outside of these endeavors, Nelson finds himself continually interested in “making people come together to do something.” This interest has led to projects like The Last Reading on Earth, Ever, an online marathon reading of apocalyptic writing in honor of the Mayan Apocalypse, and a participatory mapping project where Nelson asks people to chart topography based on personal experience and knowledge (or lack thereof). Nelson’s interest in “making people stop and do something unexpected” gave rise to I Was Distracted But I’m Better Now, a postcard-writing activity that plants itself in public spaces in hopes of encouraging distracted people to stop and write a note to a stranger in lieu of checking a cellphone or quickly rushing along. This latest work, APPLAUSE, exists in a similar vein.
The project started with Nelson’s eleven-month-old daughter learning to clap, and the excitement grew from there: “I’ve been obsessed with applause. It’s primitive in a way, and yet integral to our lives. The same clapping sound can hold many different meanings; it can be anything you want it to be.” The act appeals to him across a variety of fronts. He cites the relationship applause implies, the emotional, feel-good feeling that the noise stirs up, and his excitement for an applause installation made by artist Maria Chavez, who noted that applause is most frequently heard around the world between 9:30 PM and midnight.
When APPLAUSE was first imagined, it seemed necessary to choose a communal space for the project that existed outside of gallery walls. Open Field gives Nelson the opportunity to place his group of determined clappers in a prominent location where the public will stumble upon the sight of people unexpectedly applauding everyone and everything. According to Nelson, confusion is part of the point: “I like confusion- it makes you stop and think.”
APPLAUSE fits in well at the Walker, where an artwork with the same title by Bruce Conner is currently on view as part of the exhibition Art Expanded: 1956-1978. During Open Field 2012, experimental musician Jonathan Zorn gave audience members pairs of wooden paddles to clap together in order to examine the way sound reverberated off of the building. Thursday is another opportunity for communal applause– for both active participant and passerby to build something bigger together, and in the process share in exhaustion and glee.
“You are invited to join in the applause, watch, be applauded, pass by, pass through, applaud us, applaud yourself, applaud anything or nothing. Join in for as little or as long as you like,” reads the public invitation. The quest to break the record begins promptly at 5:30 PM on Thursday. “It will lead to fatigue” shares Nelson, “but in the process I hope everyone finds a moment of reflection to think about what the act means to them.”
The current world record for continuous applause stands at ninety minutes. Pending the success (and confirmation from Guinness) of Thursday night’s efforts, each participant has the opportunity to claim their own official Guinness certificate. But regardless of formal achievement or merit, the event promises the opportunity to create something new and delve into the unknown– an Open Field experience through and through.
Find it at Open Field: Dustin Luke Nelson’s APPLAUSE, Thursday, June 26, 5:30-7:30 PM