Thursday, June 23, 2011

More on Participation

So apparently WolfBrown is doing a study on participatory arts -- Ian at Createquity has the details, but WolfBrown defines what they mean: "In this case, “active” means that the participant is involved to some extent in creative expression (i.e., creating or performing)." Ian thought it might be a good thing to crowdsource. So let's see what people consider "active participation":
  • Unsilent Night, where "composer Phil Kline's free outdoor participatory sound sculpture of many individual parts, recorded on cassettes, CD's and mp3's, and played through a roving swarm of boomboxes carried through city streets every December.  People bring their own boomboxes and drift peacefully through a cloud of sound which is different from every listener's perspective.
  • All Raise This BarnAll Raise This Barn (East) is a "group-designed and assembled public structure created in response to a public vote by the Rensselaer campus and local community. Using a commercially available barn-making kit as the starting point, online voting determines architectural, aesthetic, and labor choices, as well as whether the assembly is collaborative or competitive."
  • Takes by the Nicole Canuso Dance Company. "Within a large cube wrapped in semi-transparent screens two dancers perform fragments from their lives. Captured by multiple video cameras, their actions are woven into an elaborate reel of "takes," and projected back onto the screens as large black-and-white films. At turns hypnotic, visceral, and intimate, TAKES creates multiple layers of visual movement between the performers and their projected selves, weaving into the present what they thought they had left behind. TAKES captures the full intensity of how past moments live within us and how they intercede with the present. Viewable from 360 degrees, the audience is invited to move around and shift perspective during the show.
  • Random Acts of Culture,"brings fine art to the population and breaks down barriers that prevent consistent engagement in the arts."
  • Artistic Rebuttal Book, "in artistic fashion, I want to make a book full of rebuttals to the “art is worthless” debate. That is to say, a book full of “Oh yeah! Art is worthless? Take this!” But with a bit more research and validity, of course :)"
  • "Song of Houston: East +West will explore the stories of first- and second-generation immigrants to Houston from all over the East, starting with the Chinese community," said Anthony Freud, general director and CEO of Houston Grand Opera. The project will continue through 2014 and is expected to commission a series of nine chamber operas. “As its name implies, Song of Houston is deeply rooted in the cultures of all those for whom Houston is home, and will generate fresh, relevant, exciting new operas by important composers and librettists. We are passionate about collaborating meaningfully with communities throughout our city," said Freud.
I have a feeling that WolfBrown's main research result may be discovering that people in the arts have no idea what "participatory" means, even if you define it clearly. Participation in creative expression isn't letting spectators carry a boom box around, or move around during the production, or vote on what color your barn is going to be, or be present when you deliver "fine art" to them in a non-traditional venue, or serve as the subject of your commissioned work. It means actively participating in creative expression. It means sharing the ownership of the artistic process. It means it isn't about you, the artist. It means using your own skills as an artist to facilitate the expression of others.

6 comments:

Brian said...

Like you said, it's hard to pin down a definition of it. What makes your definition more valid than others? (Not disagreeing, just asking).

Scott Walters said...

Because it is based on the dictionary... I don't "participate" in sports by watching it on TV or walking around with a radio. And WolfBrown was pretty explicit, too.

Anonymous said...

That's not a very good comparison. When watching sports on TV you have no effect on the event at all, you are not even there. Now, just taking the first example cited, the boombox carriers in "Unsilent Night" do effect the performance and, in fact, their interaction constitutes the "performance." They may not be the prime creators of the work, but they certainly "participate" in the standard definition of the word.

Scott Walters said...

If I'm at the football game, part of the crowd, am I participating?

Anonymous said...

At the football game, do they allow you to get on the field and play with the equipment while the game is in progress?

Scott Walters said...

No, they don't -- it is commodified the same as theatre. But remember: this is a study being done on "participatory arts."