At one point in time I was certified as an Expert Witness for the California Court System. My particular brand of expertise was the social dynamics of public sex environments. During one cross-examination I was explaining the different zones in an Orange County park where men could scope out the action without incriminating themselves, express their desires, and do the deed. Depending on the time of day, the zones could change: at night, activity that was limited to the bushes would move out into the open areas because of the lack of non-players and the cover of darkness. The prosecuting attorney couldn't make sense of this. Coming from the perspective of legal theory, places and actions should be well defined and unchanging: cars pass between the dotted lines on the roadway, and folks at Dodger Stadium spectate, play baseball, or sell hot dogs.
In real life, spaces are defined by the activities that take place: the party moves into the kitchen, the Pope's visit transforms stadia into churches, and the public square becomes the site of a demonstration. In recent times, artists have used relational aesthetics to temporarily shift institutional spaces towards other uses and museums attempt to shift their function with DJs, no-host bars, and the odd movie screening.
Christopher Knight notices the ill-fit when Kaprow's non-institutional Happenings get shoehorned into an institutional space. Moving from a conventional wall of paintings through documentation, to events outside their walls, appropriate viewer behavior becomes harder to gage. The visitor (and critic) has a much easier time on the other side of the Geffen, where their job is to stand and look.
LACMA seems to be having a similar problem, with the recently removed Tulips by Jeff Koons. Michael Govan states:
"We have displayed it responsibly. We have put up barriers and we have guards. I'm not sure if people have become more aggressive or if we have become more protective, but it deserves more care than the public so far has given it."Suzanne Muchnic describes some of the damage:
In one case, a toddler was so entranced by the art that he slid under a protective rope and threw his arms around one of the flowers.I guess that Govan is used to entranced toddlers showing more care at Dia Beacon. In Los Angeles, our children are raised by wolves.
In defense of the average museum-goer (who enters LACMA after meandering through the touchable gauntlet of Chris Burden's street lights) the only indication that the rules have changed is a line of poles with retractable webbing, like those one walks through before being X-rayed and felt up at the airport. The viewer is still outside, where the old rule was that touching was OK. At some point one could encounter a Feliz Gonzalex-Torres candy spill, with the guards encouraging and the parents hold the toddlers back. Eventually, the push-pull of relational interaction and obnoxious beeping proximity sensors (last paragraph in link) becomes a tedious trope and one refuses to play the game.
It's no wonder painting fares so well: in its presence, we know what to do. For my own practice, moving outside the institutional space allows for a more generous range of action or interaction, and the viewer/participant can make their own rules.