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Participation in Contemporary Art

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On the last meeting of "The Politics of Participation..." we thought it would be great to continue this class in some way, since many things remain to be discussed. Some things we could do next:

  •  Let's experience and experiment participation. We can take part in participatory pieces and think about the experience afterwards. We can eventually contact the authors of the pieces we take part in and talk with them about their work. We can come up with our own participatory artistic practice, try to realize it and discuss the results.
  •  Let's make more of the 10-min individual presentations about participatory pieces. We did that in the last two meetings and it was quite interesting, but more people wanted to present works and we ran out of time. People can present their own work, or work by other artists.
  •  Think of pedagogic projects. We read chapter 9 of Artificial Hells, titled "Pedagogic Projects", but we spent that meeting mostly talking about documentation. We could try this time to focus on the topic.
  •  Alternative definitions of the idea of "participation", both in art and politics. This is Bishop's definition in Artificial Hells, which seemed problematic for some people:

"This book is [...] organized around a definition of participation in which people constitute the centrar artistic medium and material, in the manner of theater or performance. [...] The artists I discuss below are less interested in a relational aesthetic than in the creative rewards of participation as a politicised working process."

And by "politicised" she probably refers to Rancière's understanding of politics as a practice of dissensus (which in any case is not the way I think of politics, especially because the dichotomy consensus/dissensus doesn't help me to take account of essential aspects of the political. So if we have time it'd be also interesting to check out not only alternative definitions of participation, but also other definitions of politics.)


I think each of these points deserves at least 2 meetings. And since most of the meetings we had were around 3 hours long, we could settle 3 hours as the formal duration of each meeting.

Please feel free to add more points, edit the ones I wrote here, correct my English, etc.


tps website
Interested (22)
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Hey everybody!

For the ones who weren't there last time (or wheren't there at all but are still interested in this proposal), the group agreed to continue meeting weekly outside the public school till a new class is organized.
We opened a Google Group to keep in contact, so if you want to keep updated just send me an email asap: diegochamy at . So far twelve people already joined (almost everyone who was there last class).
There are at least three places where we could meet: ZK/U Berlin (proposed by Miryana, a big space in Moabit), Orion's flat, and mine (both in Kreuzberg). Next meeting will be this Sunday at my place. More info (address, time, texts, topics, ideas, etc) will be posted/discussed in the Google Group.
Looking forward!
TPS's picture

has anyone proposed a time yet for sat?

how about 4?

I'm interested in this. Any idea when you may meet? I'm writing a book chapter about improvisation and organisation at the moment. participation is important in that.



I think it might be a good idea to use as the criteria for 'participatory art' the changing of material, formal and/or conceptual properties of the piece by (a) participant(s) which would thus give them some degree of proprietary rights over the piece which they may or may not have given up. But happy to be contradicted at the meeting. In any case I think it is a very urgent question.

Please somebody say if the group will meet this Saturday? I could be there this Saturday and next. Thank you,


fiona geuss's picture


In my opinion (as i mentioned previously) it would be useful to agree on a certain understanding of "participation" in art before people present their own work. If we figure out specific characteristics (to be a "participatory" artwork, certain things have to happen) or be in different contexts (kinds of "participatory" settings) it would provide a shared understanding of what we are talking about. That is what the last class tried to do with comparing Bishop to Kester, but it doesn't feel like after four meetings we got there. After all, it could very easily be argued that a painting or sculpture is participatory, or anything for that matter, but I don't think we are talking about those types of works so clarify our own terminology, with the help of others seems important. I would also personally be interested in adding the question after the role of the institution.

This way the class could be structured in three parts: developing a common understanding of participatory art practices within our group as a discussion framework. Second, discuss the position of the participant (her own experiences) regarding to different participatory (institutional) settings. And finally discussing pieces presented by people.

Maybe we could even have for the first part little presentations where people could choose a certain mode of participation if they want (e.g. educational projects, staged participatory pieces)? Kester who we read in the previous class recently published an essay in LA MOCA's catalogue "engagement party" on a performance series the museum did over the past 4 years. the text is not so dense and the series not necessarily interesting but he gives a very short list of different kinds of staging participatory pieces that might be helpful. he also talks briefly about the role of the institution in participatory pieces:

i also think it would be great to meet up this saturday to finalize the structure of the class. who else can join us?!


P.S. Regarding the question of fixed dates, since we have to consider other classes that are being planned, the availability of the person from the school organizing the class, and most importantly the availability of the space we are hosted by, an agreement on dates and number of meetings is usually necessary (also, at the moment classes take place on Saturdays).


my proposal was merely aiming at being a continuation of the previous
class. i just put together some ideas that came up during the class
which we didn't have the time to develop and people seemed interested

i feel a bit frustrated about the fact that people who attended the
class don't seem to have an easy way to keep meeting if they already
have an idea of what to do next. instead, once the amount of meetings
that were previously stipulated end, we have to write new proposals,
wait for everyone to click on "add me" again, and then write a
description of a supposedly "new" class. it feels too bureaucratic to
me, and disregarding towards what could be decided more organically
during the class. but maybe i'm not understanding how things work or
the reasons behind this functioning.

anyway, i'm up for meeting on saturday to discuss what next.

i still find this confusing.

but, i'm happy to meet on sat to discuss a future class

I am away for easter... -just one thing regarding our meetings. Is it possible to not make a fixed date to hold our gatherings? Since I have no experience with the public school yet - I don't know how does it makes sense for you? Cheers, Frauke

To me the meeting sounds good this saturday.  we discussed a lot the bishop book in the class, and we were also thinking to balance her stuff with other texts. so maybe we could think of this direction further and come up with texts which could be related.



caleb berlin's picture

@hrfrasch Not necessarily! A proposal is an idea of a class, not the class itself. A proposal can be activated again and again, always in a different context and with a different form. None of the classes will ever completely use up the proposal. For example, you can see the difference between the original proposal that turned into the previous class that this proposal emerged from. For the "Artifical Hells reading group" proposal we discussed things online, which then turned into "The Politics of Participation and Collaboration in Contemporary Art." 

I was proposing ;) that we could meet in person this Saturday to discuss what to do. We could talk through how the proposal would be turned into an actual class: its focus, structure, meetings, etc., together. I would also be happy to hash this out online if that is better for everyone?

But isn't there already a class description that Diego posted?

caleb berlin's picture

We could meet this Saturday for an hour or two to write up a class description together and go from there. I can schedule this Saturday as a one-time meeting and then subsequently post a fleshed class description/plan with its own meetings. If people can't make it on Saturday given the short notice (and easter), maybe ideas can be posted here in advance? What do you all think?

Hi Frauke,

This class proposal is meant to be a continuation of this class: . In that class we discussed Chapters 1, 6 and 9 from "Artificial Hells", and we read other texts too (you can check on the comments of that class). Anyway, you don't need to read all we already read. In fact not everybody read the texts. If you want to read something, maybe the introduction and first chapter of "Artificial Hells" is a good start. We'll probably decide together what to read for the first meeting.

It is still unclear when the class will start. Normally there should be enough people interested (around 15?) for the school to schedule a class. But if people who attended the other class register for this one too, then we should be able to start soon (hopefully this Saturday or the next one). You'll see in the website if the class is being organized.


Hi there, I am just coming out of a Chto Delat Learning Play and got to know about the Public School there. I signed up and found your proposal immediately. In my artistic performative practice I working with locals and I need more critical discussion on concepts and practice likewise. I don't have a strong background in academics and want to know if "Artificial Hells" is the book/writing I need to prepare with -or which paragraphs you recommend to read? When do you think to schedule the next/first meeting? Looking fwd to meet you, Frauke


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