Year 7, n.24 (January – April 2017) Participation

Year 7, n.24 (January – April 2017)

curated by Paola Bommarito

Site-specific is a word that we often use to indicate the artistic productions which are conceived for a particular site. Here we refer to place-specific practices, to artistic interventions within the urban space, which do not define space through its physical and geographical characteristics. Instead, here we refer to artistic practices that aim to establish connections with a given public space, understood as a result of social, cultural and economic relationships.

It is not simply about an installation of an artwork within the public space; the placement of a sculpture in a square, in order to embellish that space. Here we consider, specifically, artistic practices which are positioned in public spaces, conceived for public interest, and which focus on social and political issues. It is participatory art1 that involves the community through process based and collaborative methodologies, oriented towards a more politicized form of participation. It is also dialogical art2, because it tries to establish and encourage a dialogue between different social groups. Furthermore, it is contextual art3 because it is outside of museums and galleries – places which usually host artistic exhibitions – and it acquires context within the public sphere and in everyday life.

Collaboration, dialogue and participation have become important elements in the aesthetic language of many contemporary artists. But how can artists work in public spaces? What kind of relationships are established between artworks and the people who live in those places? How many and which forms of participation can be activated?

Participation is not only about art forms that try to create gatherings or relational moments between people. Here we refer primarily to the social dimension of participation. It is about collaborating with a specific community, initiating a dialogue with it, and collecting information on its needs and its context. All this, to then develop an artistic intervention. Participation is a proposal, to an extended audience, to take part in artistic dynamics. It encourages action. Here we emphasize on participation throughout the creative process, where people are directly integrated into the authorial sphere of artistic production. We talk about the work of artists – or groups of people more or less ample and interdisciplinary – who conceive the artwork collectively, after having initiated a relationship with the community. Could the gesture of ceding some authorial control be considered an act that produces a non-hierarchical social model?.

1 Bishop C., Artificial Hells. Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship, Verso Books, London 2012.
2 Kester G., Conversation Pieces. Community + Communication in Modern Art, University of California Press, Berkeley-Los Angeles, 2004.
3 Weibel P., Context Art: Towards a Social Construction of Art 1994.