past exhibition
Scott Cowan & Katy Cowan
The Fifth Wall

April 11, 2014; 7pm-11pm

The “fourth wall” is the proverbial division between entertainers and their audience. Recently, in a casual conversation, Katy and Scott mistakenly referred to this metaphorical division as the “fifth wall.” As their laughter settled, they began to wonder: if the fourth wall allows for one to suspend one’s disbelief, and temporarily—albeit from a distance—accept a fiction as an affective reality, what would a fifth wall represent? What would be its function?

After a few moments of conjecture and google-ing, they found that questions regarding the role of the fifth wall have varied answers. On the one hand, some argue that the fifth wall is the barrier between the critic and the practitioner (1); on the other hand, others hold that the fifth wall involves meta-marketing. (2) Further, some believe it refers to an instance when an artist fumbles, disrupting the scene: for the show to continue, both audience and artist must regain composure without halting the performative aspect of the event. (3)

Entertained by the spectrum of possible definitions, in THE FIFTH WALL Scott and Katy want to synthesize the commonalities between these definitions; they hope to use their understanding of the fifth wall to frame their work. Here, they believe the fifth wall involves revealing elements of an illusion without expecting resolution behind an illusion. Recognizing the space between artist, observer, and critic, Scott and Katy purposefully expose the structures of their work. Recollecting the fruits of their conversation, they now begin to ponder: perhaps the meaning of a work of art is not an intrinsic element, but is extrinsic and goal-oriented.

Their collaboration involves the necessary tension between interpretation and misinterpretation, that is, the fragility of the interpretability of a work of art. THE FIFTH WALL is their humorous attempt to seriously consider that a reality ‘behind’ an illusion can only ever be a reality in an illusion.

Please join!

(1) “What does ‘breaking the fifth wall” mean?,” Yahoo Answers, response from Eagle1388 posted three years ago, accessed March 10, 2014,

(2) Eugene Carr, Breaking the Fifth Wall: Rethinking Arts Marketing for the 21st Century (New York: Patron Publishing, 2011). Breaking the Fifth Wall is a self-published e-book available at

(3) “Breaking the Fifth Wall,” Uncyclopedia: The Content-Free Encyclopedia, last modified January 21, 2013, accessed March 25, 2014,