From Interaction to Participation

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+ Who is interacting with what or whom? Viewer with work? ...w. artist(s)? ...with one another? 

+ What counts as interaction? Choosing where to click on a menu? Navigating a garden of forking paths? Choosing which part of a painting to look at first? Where is the threshold at which action becomes interaction?

+ In The Language of New Media (2001), Lev Manovich distinguishes between closed interactivity, "which uses fixed elements arranged in a fixed branching structure," and open interactivity, in which "both the elements and the structure of the whole object are either modified or generated on the fly in response to user's interaction with a program." 

Open or closed? Closed or open?

Composition No. 1, Marc Saporta, 1963


+ When does action become participation? When the user becomes a co-producer of the work? Does completing a multiple-choice survey form count? How about uploading an image?

+ Consider Rafael Lozano Hemmer's Vectorial Elevation (2000). Would you say this project is participatory, or merely interactive?

+ Compared to traditional media, interactive and participatory art complicate the position of the spectator/listener/reader, leading to awkward neologisms:

+ + The passive viewer becomes an active... viewser?

+ + The active user becomes a collaborating... produser?

+ In "Viewers as Producers," Claire Bishop identifies two approaches to participatory art: "an authored tradition that seeks to provoke participants, and a de-authored lineage that aims to embrace collective creativity; one is disruptive and interventionist, the other constructive and ameliorative." (11)

+ In "The Author as Producer" (1934), Walter Benjamin appropriated Bertolt Brecht's concept of umfunktionierung to describe a radical approach to authorship in which the relations of production are transformed: readers become writers, etc.

+ Thusfar, we've focused on the role of the view/user/produser. Once we enter the territory of participation, the questions shifts to the role of the artist in the creative process of making the work. Does the artist create a framework for participation, determining the works form and general direction, or does the artist become a facilitator in which participants co-determine not only the content of the work but also its form? 

+ Social space as artistic medium: Beuys: social sculpture.

+ Politics of participation. Bishop sees three agendas at work (p. 12):

+ + Activating, empowering and giving agency to subjects of participation;

+ + Creating a form of authorship that is less hierarchical and more egalitarian: a utopian model for society, a model for participatory democracy;

+ + Restoring the social bonds community through "collective elaboration of meaning."

A Selective History of Participatory Art

Happenings, 1960s

Fluids, Alan Kaprow, 1967

Situationism, 1960s

"Theory of the Dérive," Guy Debord, 1958

Social Sculpture, 1970s

Bureau for the Organisation of Direct Democracy, Joseph Beuys, 1972

Food, Gordan Matta Clark _et al., _1971

Womanhouse, Judy Chicago _et al., _1972

Relational Art, 1990s

Untitled (Free), Rirkrit Tiravanija, 1992

Participation 2.0

+ When does participation become exploitation?

+ The shift from industrial to postindustrial economy, from physical products to intangible products and services (information, knowledge, experiences), from material to immaterial and affective labor

The Sheep Market, Aaron Koblin, 2008

+ Trebor Scholz distinguishes between two kinds of free labor: crowdsourcing (a form of outsourcing e.g. Mechanical Turk) and peer-production (collaboration on an open-source project, e.g. Wikipedia).

+ Crowdsourcing flattens hierarchies (Yochai Benkler) while it as a way of exploits (captures and commodifies) free time as labor (Tiziana Terranova)

+ "What is most astonishing is that this entire process of expropriation has been so breathtakingly normalized." - Scholz, 51

Learning to Love You More, Harrell Fletcher and Miranda July, 2002

+ Scholz asks: "How can we live and politicize our troubled complicity in practices of expropriation? ... Artworks... can function as incursions that shed light on the conditions of labor and cultural production." 52.

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