Claire Bishop’s “Participation and Spectacle: Where Are We Now?”
I include a video of Clare Bishop’s lecture on “Participation and Spectacle: Where Are We Now?” from 2011 Creative Time forum. Readers of her recently release book “Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship” (2012), will be familiar with some of the arguments.
I share this video as a resource but also because it highlights one important aspect of Bishop’s work. She is one of the few attempting to critique Participatory Art, as opposed to the many who try to create an uncritical discourse around participatory work. She attempts to explain why it isn’t enough to just make activist art, especially since the artists are not interested in ensuring the work would lead to change in social policy. Her critique is premised on addressing the strategy of participation as a means of emancipating the spectator from the alienating effects of capitalism. For Bishop, social practices generally stand in a misleading comfort zone where the criteria of art and social change are being rejected, without the emergence of something new. Art and social change are not to be reconciled and collapsed but are to maintain their social tension.
Bishop points to, but does not fully develop, the problems with the participatory artist’s disinterestedness in addressing issues of mediation, although they claim to be concerned with the problem of alienation. Bishop has motivated a personal interest in pursuing a deeper critique of participatory art’s antinomic relationship to visual art practices and its abandonment of object-centered practice as a means of resolving the problem of alienation.
If you want more of an affirmative background on Participatory Art, watch Creative Time director, Nato Thompson, speak on his project/exhibition/book Living as Form.