Participatory arts: an introduction to histories and issues


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Lecture for week 3 of Community Theatre Project 1 at UWS (BA (Hons) Performance). Quick introduction to some of the key debates in participatory arts

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Participatory arts: an introduction to histories and issues

  1. 1. Participatory arts – an introduction to some of the histories & issues Graham Jeffery BA(Hons) Performance – Level 9 Community Theatre Project 1 Week 3
  2. 2. What is ‘participation’?• In what different ways do people ‘participate’ in the arts?• How is participation developed and valued?• Why does participation matter?• Participatory arts – a term developed to refer to specific approaches/techniques/methods of engaging people in arts practice – but also part of a broader philosophical movement in arts practice• Has its roots in participatory politics – what might that mean?
  3. 3. Rituals• Different ways in which people enact community• What do we mean by ‘enacting’ community?Or performing community?Custom, tradition, celebration
  4. 4. Human behaviour as “symbolic action”• once human behaviour is seen as…symbolic action which, like phonation in speech, pigment in painting, line in writing, or sonance in music, signifies - the question as to whether culture is patterned conduct or a frame of mind, or even the two somehow mixed together, loses sense…Behaviour must be attended to, and with some exactness, because it is through the flow of behaviour - or more precisely, social action - that cultural forms find articulation. They find it as well, of course, in various forms of artefacts, and various states of consciousness, but these draw their meaning from the role they play…in an ongoing pattern of life..Clifford Geertz : the interpretation of cultures, 1973
  5. 5. Culture as communication• As core part of human activity• Origins of theatre? Myth, ceremony, celebration, storytelling?And everyday performance – how wecommunicate
  6. 6. Forms of popular assembly: rituals, events
  7. 7. The ‘efficacy-entertainment’ dyad (adapted from Schechner, 2002, p 71)• EFFICACY/RITUAL • ENTERTAINMENT/PERFORMResults ING ARTSTimeless time – the eternal For funpresent Performer self-aware/inTrance controlTraditional scripts/behaviours Virtuosity highly valuedTransformation of self possible Transformation of self unlikelyAudience participates Audience observesAudience believes Audience appreciates,Criticism discouraged evaluatesCollective creativity Criticism flourishes Individual creativity
  8. 8. The participatory and community arts movement• Origins in critique of mass culture as producing passive, placated individuals (Theodor Adorno)• Stressing active participation/production above ‘passive’ consumption• Critique of strict divide between ‘amateur’ and ‘professional’ art-making and hierarchies of status i• Concerned with reconstructing, regenerating notions of ‘community’• Access to tools, resources, spaces for everyone to make art• “Everyone is an artist” (Joseph Beuys)
  9. 9. Community• Complex concept• Multiple definitions• ‘bringing a community into being’ rather than just reflecting bounded, geographical or ethnic entity• We all belong to multiple communities• Processes of ‘inclusion and exclusion’• Questions of power and agency
  10. 10. Participatory arts – recent originsEveryday participation incultural practiceInterest in popular culture notjust ‘high art’1960s and 1970s – critique ofelitismPolitics and engagementAmateur and ‘voluntary’ arts –long traditions eg brassbands, dance schools etcInterest in the ‘benefits’ ofcultural participation andnotions of cultural democracy
  11. 11. Example: Welfare State International (1968 – 2006)• Experimental in form – interdisciplinary collective of writers, performers, musicia ns, visual artists, pyrotechnians etc• Co-operative forms of organisation• Concerned with celebration and participation• Making use of popular stories, myths and forms• Nomadic, drawing on circus, outdoor street theatre traditions
  12. 12. Longline – final WSI project, 2006 • m/watch?gl=GB&v=Yep Z-X1l-aQ
  13. 13. Influential ideas • “Welfare State” and politics of culture – making links to what people value • “engineers of the imagination” • Concern with ordinary, vernacul ar (everyday) culture • Evolution into world-renowned company Lanternhouse, Ulverston
  14. 14. …wider developments • Artists in residence • (eg John Latham/Barbara Steveni’s Artist Placement Group) • Artists in “non-arts” spaces (hospitals, businesses, priso ns) • Drawing attention to cultural dimensions of all human activity • Holistic, integrated, utopian ? • Pedagogy of participation
  15. 15. 1970s: the establishment of ‘community arts’ as a category of practice • Contested definitions • Later work substituted ‘participatory’ for ‘community’ given the problematic status of the word ‘community’ • Debates still rage over questions of product vs process, ‘access’ vs ‘quality’ etc (from Su Braden, “Artists and People”, 1978)
  16. 16. Later developments• The arts and health • Participatory/community movement arts as major• Arts and community undercurrent in development contemporary• Public art practices performance practice, especially given concern• Urban and rural for new audiences, new regeneration spaces, new ways of• Community doing performance music, Community dance etc• All have their own traditions/frameworks/ap proaches
  17. 17. The field of participatory arts• access and participation• learning and pathways• “social inclusion” strategies• arts and cultural regeneration• the value of cultural participation• Health, wellbeing, identity , place
  18. 18. Futures? Challenges and preoccupations• the participatory turn in culture and cultural policy• digital engagement/web: Clay Shirky: “Here Comes Everybody”• mass media is changing - peer to peer, network society• performance into action – performance as action – performance as protest• “Occupy” movement as a form of community theatre/re-enactment• activist perspectives - changing communities - radical theatre - work on the edge in interesting locations• ‘austerity’ and the decline of state support for the arts – debates about funding and organisation• Urban design. Community design. Place. Sustainability issues
  19. 19. ••• y