Pavlina Mladenova
May 30 - July 25, 2014

The project mystery_art_shopping is based on the mystery shopping concept, used by market research companies to gather specific information about products and services. The mystery shopping process measures specific elements of the customer experience through the use of instructed participants who serve as mystery shoppers.

Inserting art into the mystery shopping concept allows this typical marketing tool to explore new ways in which art and audience can connect. The project mystery_art_shopping becomes a dualistic art experiment with two main directions for interpreting the project's processes: mystery_art and art_shopping.

The mystery_art aspect consists of the mysterious role of the participants: secret co-creators of the art project, who become creative partners with equal agency in its outcome. The tension created by the secrecy of the project, combined with the participants' innate curiosity, were crucial in developing the social contract between artist and participants.

The art_shopping aspect depicts and analyzes the experiences of the participants while they perform as mystery art shoppers. "Art shopping" is synonymous with any kind of art contact, such as: viewing, ticket buying, asking questions of a docent, touching, reflecting on a viewing experience, etc. The "mystery art shopping" process follows the exact structural attributes of standard mystery shopping practices, combined here with artistic improvisation and applied to contemporary art.

Participants in the project were primarily students from Monte Ahuja College of Business at Cleveland State University and the object of the mystery_art_shopping study was the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland. As non-professional art viewers, the recruits were asked to engage the mystery art shopping experience in a prescribed way that would lead them to notice things about the visit and the venue that otherwise might be overlooked. All the data, thoughts, photos, and videos that participants generated became part of the manifestation of the mystery_art_shopping on display. As mystery shopping practices typically require, all participants in the project received monetary compensation for their time and effort.

Mystery_art_shopping marks the launch of the Mystery Art Shopping Clinic ? a new methodology developed by the artist for the study and measurement of audience experiences with contemporary art.

This project was conceived and executed during the Creative Fusion Residency, sponsored by the Cleveland Foundation and hosted by SPACES. The project was realized with the support of Cleveland State University and the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland.

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SWAP #47 Pavlina Mladenova


Cleveland Foundation Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland
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