[iDC] Participation in Art

Trebor Scholz trebor at thing.net
Thu Apr 13 10:36:00 EDT 2006

>This idea/concept is nothing new, I would remind you...  Countless 
>mail-art projects were based on this principle, not to mention Fluxus 
>events among others (I'll leave other examples ot the historians...)

The idea is of participation in art is without question not new at all.
There have been several essays delinating a trajectory that traces
participatory elements in art since the 1960s. Dieter Daniels and Inke
Arns worked on these topics, for example.


There is, however, a new quality to this type of cultural practice that
I¹d argue qualifies as leap, as a turn of sorts. This surely needs some
working through typologies of participation and different kinds of
contexts along with specific project examples. Several phenomena come
together. For one, there is, in North America, a steep increase in the
numbers of people who contribute content online. From blog entries to
book reviews, mp3 uploads, to mailing lists and wikis. At the same time,
there is a harsh decline in civic participation in the U.S. as
substantiated by Robert Putnam. This sets the stage for novel kinds of
cultural production online. More people have the media authorship skills
to contribute and sociable web media became easier to use. This
convergence of factors is not devoid of (art/media) historical
consciousness. There is a novelty to an emerging kind of cultural
production that lives of this convergence.  

Apart from these web phenomena there is a wide range of performance work
that feeds off these ideas. The specifics and ground forces motivating
this work are different to what I just outlined. What I observe more and
more though is a type of porting of these online constellations into
offline art projects. What does it look like to perform your blog? How
could you play face-to-face Facebook?


>>I believe Trebor would refer to this as 'context provision', and 
>>suggest that the 'artists' (ie, Marko, Mongrel & r a d i o q u a l i 
>>a) are 'context providers' in these situations.
>I feel that the term 'context provision' is perhaps a special limited 
>case (albeit by the meaning of the words) though.  For example, for 
>me it sounds too neutral -- which the process definitely isn't. 
>Facilitation is one concept, perhaps -- where the artist is 
>facilitating the situation.
>I envision this, when teaching, as a situation where I am pushing 
>back the dominant social constrictions on relation within a certain 
>'defined space' -- this space-creating process, when done properly, 
>allows something else to go on within that space which would normally 
>not happen.  (and by space, I'm not talking about the material 
>Cartesian spaces**, but a psychic space mostly: the energized locus 
>of full-spectrum human relation).
>How is this done?  The actual process depends on those who have 
>chosen to occupy that space with me (and each other) -- it is highly 
>reflective of each individual who choses to join in.
>I see the process as a facilitation of trust; as a re-formation of 
>possible creative channels between participants (as compared to the 
>channels that the social system imposes on them); as an explicit or 
>implicit critique-through-praxis of that dominant system; uh, what 
>Thus, with those comments, I guess I feel that putting a two-word 
>description 'context provision' is far to reductive of a highly 
>complex process...  Take for example, Mongrel -- although I didn't 
>know the crew too well, what I saw of their praxis, it was MUCH more 
>than context provision -- it was a life-praxis that the members lived 
>through as vital members of a community...
>** this is another example where the language of materialism simply 
>cannot circumscribe the phenomena of networks and organic 
>distriibuted systems.  I would encourage a critical engagement and 
>subsequent search for language that transcends materialism.
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