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Artificial Hells reading group

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I was happy to see Claire Bishop's Artifical Hells arrive on the shelves last year, ( ) and would like to read it together. I've made several participatory art works, and am always happy to hear further critique. I'd like to read it together with other people! There has been a class in the Bay Area which also looked at this book which looked like a great class. However, I'd like to focus more on participatory art and the problems that accompany it, and how to deal with those - perhaps with practical examples from the work and experiences of those attending the class.
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berlinese's picture

in case anyone is interested in the new class and overlooked it, a continuation of the participation in contemporary art class has been scheduled, starting this saturday 6th april in archive books at 2.

you need to add yourself to the newly scheduled classes to get the updated information about them.

see you there!

Hi Miryana, we start the class this saturday (16th feb, at 15pm), at archive book shop, which is based on this proposal.

here is the link:

see you on saturday!


kleine panik

Hi there,

please, let me know if I can join the group and where we could meet.

I'm very interested in the topic of the Politics of Participation and Collaboration in Contemporary Art and performative projects.

The book  by Claire Bishop 'Artificial Hells' seems to be right on and a good starting point for discussion.

Thanks so much!



caleb berlin's picture


While we are still working on the exact plan and logistics, looks like this is going to happen here in Berlin very soon, so I'm going to create a class with a summary of the conversation below and a new title (maybe just "The Politics of Participation and Collaboration in Contemporary Art"?).

If there are any objections, chime in now!


fiona geuss's picture


hello everybody,

I think an important crucial point in the differences of the mentioned arguments is also the notion of "responsibility" (be it towards the participants, a community or towards the institution). especially regarding bishops term of "delegated performance" and the "outsourcing of authenticity". so we could also include bakhtin's short text "art and answerability" in the readings and discussion.

sean's picture

Another thing to read (I'm pretty sure it hasn't been sent around yet, but forgive me if it has) is "Ghosts of Participation Past" by Josephone Berry Slater ( which is a review/ critical analysis of Artificial Hells.

We could also read parts of Shannon Jackson's "Social Works: Performing Art, Supporting Publics" or just her essay in "Living as Form". I guess getting insight into the 'trias' of socially-enagaged theorists Bishop, Kester and Jackson would help understand Bishop's argument very much.

fotini's picture


caleb berlin's picture

I'd be interested in reading this alongside Grant Kester's last book, published in 2011, "The One and the Many: Contemporary Collaborative Art in a Global Context." Kester and Bishop have very, very different perspectives on what constitutes participation and "politically" engaged art. It would nice to look at them in parallel as a way to compare/contrast their perspectives. They have also been battling it out in public since 2006, when Kester wrote an extremely critical review of "The Social Turn: Collaboration and Its Discontents," which can be found here. I lean much more towards Kester's take on things, but haven't read "Artificial Hells" so would like to see how it relates to Bishop's previous position(s) and Kester's ongoing critique of them (also found in  "The One and the Many").


There is also the book "life as form; socially engaged art" which contains some nice texts (one also from C.Bishop) and I could also scan that to share, if you want..

fotini's picture

here's a pdf of the book: 

we could start with this book and then perhaps introduce a couple of relevant readings along the way... 


fotini's picture

here's a pdf of the book: 

we could start with this book and then perhaps introduce a couple of relevant readings along the way... 



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