In writing, the point is not to manifest or exalt the act of writing, nor is it to pin a subject within language; it is rather a question of creating a space into which the writing subject constantly disappears.”

― Michel Foucault, What is an Author?


Taking into consideration Jon Rubin’s desire to ‘close the loop’ (Matta-Clark, 2011), so to speak, as fundamental to his practice “Thinking About Flying” A social participatory piece creates a neat diachronic link between Rubin’s idea and his practice intention and the perception of the audience as authors in its delivery.

His practice has evolved to be “part of a contingent relationship between the situations I find or place myself within, the scenarios I produce for those situations, and the people I’m working with”.(Reiman, 2016) and much of his work requires that the audience play a large part in its process and progress.

His practice became established in the early to mid 1990’s when there was skepticism about this genre of participatory art but Suzanne Lacy (Rubin’s Mentor at university) authored Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art which included her ideas of how artists can give voice to often underserved populations in order to exert forms of agency and social change and although not an exact fit to Rubin’s drivers her comments were influential in the development of his practice and perhaps helped influence the influencers when it came to defining works like his as ‘Art”

In line with Umberto, Eco Rubin would seem to support that you cannot divorce the cultural setting from the context “The context becomes part of the reading as does the experience of the reader. We are bringing our own expectations and understanding of this famous thing” and in social practice, the audience can only be influenced directly through their own cultural consciousness as Roland Barthes says the ‘meaning of the work comes from the viewer viewing the work with knowledge’. (Larsen Burnett, 2019)

In terms of a social participation project the function of its ‘text’ (not literal text but here employed as to mean the context, the narrative and its framework in relation to its audience) creates diachronic connections both vertically and horizontally which do allow Rubin’s piece to be art because it sits within the context of a museum exhibition, it is planned and executed through the immersion of the artist to bring the project to fruition creates a ‘structuation’ as Julia Kristeva might refer to it which in the same way we put socks on our feet and a hat on our head “Thinking About flying” takes on its vertical context as an art piece through Jon Rubin. However the horizontal connections are passed through its audience, they make the connection between the feet and the head, they create the means by which the pigeons can describe their journey back to the exhibiting space of the museum in order to complete the loop – which is something which Rubin considers fundamental to his practice.