Talent Show (March 22nd, 2019) was an interactive performance piece by Ondine Viñao that aimed to highlight the absurdity of judgment in the modern age and the emotive stimuli of praise, approval, and condemnation. Featuring a panel of judges, audience members volunteered to showcase an assortment of creative performances. The definition of “talent” was intentionally left ambiguous, and participants were invited to actively break the fourth wall and engage with the audience, and their peers, throughout the night. 

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Viñao curated a panel of five judges along with an emcee to host the event.  The judges were chosen based on their varied creative interests and the emcee for their background in performance. The counsel of judges consisted of: Dean Kissick (British writer, columnist for Spike Art Magazine), Rebekah Campbell (American photographer, contributor to W Magazine, the New York Times, Vogue and Dazed), Satchel Lee (American creative director of Drome Magazine), Roy Vleck (American political satirist and filmmaker), and Viñao herself. The role of emcee was performed by Sasha Frovola, an American television and film actress. 

Talent Show was exclusively promoted through social media, the crux of 21st century self-absorption, as a publicly accessible and gratis evening welcoming all talents. In its realization, Talent Show disrupted the hypercriticism manifested by the social media realm, which offers a false sense of confidence to impart judgment under the veil of the screen. The public was encouraged to sign up online prior to the presentation date, stating their specific “talent”, and this information was then conveyed to the emcee to help prepare the night’s schedule and their master of ceremonies performance. The contestants were given an approximate window of five minutes each to carry out their performances. 

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An ode to the Theater of the Absurd, Talent Show was constructed to demonstrate the farcical nature of judgment in the creative field, and the unreasonable expectation that an individual in a position of power can act objectively in a realm that’s inherently controlled by personal preference and bias. This mimesis as performance posed two fundamental questions: who does the process of evaluation in a creative field serve? And by what methods should we assign value? Viñao created a score sheet consisting of eight categories where each judge rated a performer on a scale from 1 to 10. The categories became progressively more esoteric and contradictory, leaving the judges with inconsistencies in their assessment, but still with a definitive total “grade” – a score which amounted to nothing of substance, but still provided the judges with a numerical winner. 

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Viñao arranged for Doob 3D, a 3D-replicant company, to produce an 8-inch replica of the competition’s winner. The nature of the prize, which was widely advertised on social media, helped drive in traffic to the event. A miniaturized replica of a participant served as a symbol for the event at large: a night dedicated to the celebration of the self. The participants in Talent Show were all driven by a sense of self-assurance. The judges believed in their own qualifications to rightly anoint a winner, the emcee in their ability to entertain and hold an audience’s attention, and the contestants in their own creative importance. The prize, a literal statue of the winner, served not only as a souvenir of success, but as an effigy of themselves and their authority.  

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Photography by Romke Hoogwaerts

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