Sunday, 9 August 2009

The fourth corner (working title)

The Participant's choices, in general, are essentially binary; s/he can cooperate with expectations or not, and if not, generally forfeits the role of participant.

Theorists who write about questions of participation often focus on the difficulties of assessing the projects as art – how to make a critique of a participatory project on aesthetic grounds; how art can be effective now on a political level in the public sphere. Few seem to focus on the purpose and meaning of pursuing participatory practices per se, or on the role, identity and agency of the participants. Possibly this is something that gets lost in the anxiety over ethics and artistic status / quality, or it is assumed to have been covered already during the emergence of such practices and debate over social efficacy. Possibly it is neglected because of the individuality of each project, its context and the people within it, making it difficult to infer anything meaningful that can be discussed as general principle. It seems an oversight, though, to not attempt to interrogate ‘who is the participant’ because the introduction of participants fundamentally changes the shape of an artistic practice and its dissemination: it squares the triangle of artist, curator/mediator and recipient. It does not quite fit within any of them. Even in projects with a high degree of social integrity, participants are usually a silent party, their identities unknown, their voices mediated by the artist’s and the curator’s; I'm interested in what importance the participant has and imagining how things might be different.

The project will use a game structure, developed by artist Olivia Plender in dialogue with a reference group composed of other artists, a sociologist, game theorist, education programme curators and cultural theorists with interests in participatory / socially engaged practice.

The envisaged end products will be:

A finished game, which can be physically produced as a limited edition depending on its final form. I hope that it will be distributed to and via museums, institutions, galleries, and art development and commissioning agencies.

A launch event with panel discussion

A blog which will document processes, debate, and questions or problems thrown up by these

The first stage will take place online and through a workshop event in London. The date is yet to be confirmed but will probably be on a weekend in late January or February 2010.

We will be looking for a small number of people to join the reference group and a larger number to 'test drive' ideas and prototypes of the game and respond on the project blog.

If you are interested in being involved, please get in touch and tell me a bit about yourself, what you do and what your interests are... Thank you!

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