Participatory Art Residency

I was informed today that I have been accepted on an artist residency programme at the Site Gallery which is great news!  I am looking forward to meeting the nine other artists (that will be joining me on the A Time & A Place project) and taking over the gallery space for 2 weeks to explore artist-led participatory art.

So what is participatory art?  Well – here’s what I said……

//Good artist-led participation has something to say. It is about breaking down real & perceived barriers to the gallery and breaking down barriers that prevent people getting involved in explorative & creative activities. The resulting work might be about any number of issues that strike a chord with the community e.g. race, gender, sexuality, ecology, urbanisation, belonging, identity.

The artist provides a framework and skills to shape the message (be that visual, sound, or tactile) but involves people in the making to generate source material and influence the outcome. The artist may have an overall goal in mind but must be willing to let the work evolve, to listen to what people have to say and to respond accordingly. Artist-led participation is about building relationships with the people you are working with and the audience for the completed work. Good artist-led participation is not dumb but thoughtful and engaging.

Examples of good artist-led participation work I have seen includes the work of Encounters, Stephen Raw, and Mark Dion.

Encounters have pioneered the idea of the pop-up shop, using vacant premises to collect and order information & artifacts about the community they find themselves in. This has included maps on the wall where local people can pin-point their place of birth, collections of memories & stories from local shop keepers, a giant blackboard that poses questions for people to pop in and answer, and somewhere for residents to log their aspirations.

Stephen Raw is a typographer who one day realised that if you ask people to draw they quite often panic but if you ask them to draw a letterform they will get stuck in. Stephen draws attention to type as a visual art form and has worked with community groups to draw letters that then form poems that become banners. He has also worked with people to generate content e.g. he interviewed people in a care home and then designed and painted a mural in response. His response is a beautiful visual work but does not shirk his responsibilities to the people he interviewed as it carries both words of hope and despair that were told to him.

Mark Dion’s Systema Metropolis found the artist working with a specific group from the general public – that being the Natural History Museum scientists. The participants helped him collect and classify objects from the surrounding environment both man-made and natural. The exhibition was a visual delight of installations each accompanied by documentary photographs of the participants generating the source material.

All of these artists create work which is both visually compelling and respectful of participants; this is the standard of work I aspire to produce.//

Let’s see how I get on!