Captive Audience

Rita Cheng

Captive Audience was inspired by President Trump and the audiences that he paid for; if he can have meaningless applause, so can you with Captive Audience!


This project was inspired by the nascent presidency of Donald Trump. He bragged about his standing ovations from the FBI and other audiences, seemingly unaware that the applause was coerced or otherwise forced. If the president could express such pride for what was ultimately an empty gesture, why shouldn’t you or I feel this great? Consequentially, I created this machine.

But pride like this isn’t exclusively the territory of the president; motivational speakers, athletes, and other entertainers get similar treatment. It’s not a political piece; rather, it speaks to the human capacity to imagine reasons behind emotional events. The hands are not clapping for anything you’ve really done, but it feels like they are.