Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship

Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship

by Claire Bishop
     
 

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Since the 1990s, critics and curators have broadly accepted the notion that participatory art is the ultimate political art: that by encouraging an audience to take part an artist can promote new emancipatory social relations. Around the world, the champions of this form of expression are numerous, ranging from art historians such as Grant Kester, curators such as… See more details below

Overview

Since the 1990s, critics and curators have broadly accepted the notion that participatory art is the ultimate political art: that by encouraging an audience to take part an artist can promote new emancipatory social relations. Around the world, the champions of this form of expression are numerous, ranging from art historians such as Grant Kester, curators such as Nicolas Bourriaud and Nato Thompson, to performance theorists such as Shannon Jackson.

Artificial Hells is the first historical and theoretical overview of socially engaged participatory art, known in the US as “social practice.” Claire Bishop follows the trajectory of twentieth-century art and examines key moments in the development of a participatory aesthetic. This itinerary takes in Futurism and Dada; the Situationist International; Happenings in Eastern Europe, Argentina and Paris; the 1970s Community Arts Movement; and the Artists Placement Group. It concludes with a discussion of long-term educational projects by contemporary artists such as Thomas Hirschhorn, Tania Bruguera, Pawe? Althamer and Paul Chan.

Since her controversial essay in Artforum in 2006, Claire Bishop has been one of the few to challenge the political and aesthetic ambitions of participatory art. In Artificial Hells, she not only scrutinizes the emancipatory claims made for these projects, but also provides an alternative to the ethical (rather than artistic) criteria invited by such artworks. Artificial Hells calls for a less prescriptive approach to art and politics, and for more compelling, troubling and bolder forms of participatory art and criticism.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Since the early 1990s, there has been significant global artistic interest in participation and collaboration in conceptual and performance art. In this critically astute and provocative study, City University of New York art historian Bishop (Installation Art: A Critical History) analyzes the meaning of what results from participatory art rather than solely emphasizing its artistic process. Bishop divides her incisive and meticulously researched study of participatory art into three sections: a theoretical introduction to the genre, contextualizing it in the Italian Futurists, Russian proletkult, and Dada; case studies in participatory art such as the Situationist International, Argentinian art of the late 1960s led by Oscar Masotta, and Brazilian director Augusto Boal’s theater of social change; and contemporary art performance and pedagogy. Bishop’s arguments are convincingly supported and potentially very contentious. She suggests that participatory art makes the ethics of interpersonal interaction more important than politics and social justice concerns, and that activist art is not enough for social change—other institutions are necessary. A critically challenging work of vital scholarship, the book will be of greatest interest to art historians, art theorists, artists, and cultural critics. (July)
Boris Groys
“The good intentions of contemporary artists frequently pave a road to hell. Claire Bishop follows their descent into the inferno and invites her readers to share her fascination with what she finds along the way. Artificial Hells combines vast historical knowledge with a precise analysis of individual artistic practices. So much so that at the end of her new book we have begun to fall in love with hell – under the condition that it remains artificial.”
From the Publisher
“Claire Bishop has articulated an important historical overview of the global emergence of participatory art ... Her controversial and thought-provoking conclusions courageously trouble our assumptions about the effectiveness of political artworks, questioning their oppositional quality, their effects on the audiences they reach, and their relation to the institutions that promote them.”—Frank Jewett Mather Award, 2013

“Bishop’s arguments are convincingly supported and potentially very contentious...A critically challenging work of vital scholarship.”—Publishers Weekly

“An essential title for contemporary art history scholars and students as well as anyone who has witnessed a participatory art ‘happening’ and thought, ‘Now that’s art!’ or ‘That’s art?’”—Library Journal

“Bishop seeks a standard for judging participatory works...She draws on the writings of French philosopher Jacques Rancière to argue that art must maintain a degree of autonomy and unreadability in order to resist co-option by the political and economic forces intent on imposing a false social consensus.”—Eleanor Heartney, Art in America

“Pellucid”—Alexander Provan, New York Observer

“The good intentions of contemporary artists frequently pave a road to hell. Claire Bishop follows their descent into the inferno and invites her readers to share her fascination with what she finds along the way. Artificial Hells combines vast historical knowledge with a precise analysis of individual artistic practices. So much so that at the end of her new book we have begun to fall in love with hell—under the condition that it remains artificial.”—Boris Groys, author of Art Power

Library Journal
Bishop (art history, CUNY Graduate Ctr.; Installation Art: A Critical History and Participation) focuses squarely on participatory art, including André Breton's 1921 Parisian Grande Saison Dada, a season full of sensational performances that has been internationally popular since the early 1990s. The title is both a positive and negative descriptor of participatory art, which Bishop identifies as art that requires the involvement of many people. The book is divided into three parts: key terms and motivations, historical case studies, and a history of the post-1989 period that focuses on two contemporary tendencies in participatory art: "delegated performance" and "pedagogic projects." VERDICT An essential title for contemporary art history scholars and students as well as anyone who has witnessed a participatory art "happening" and thought "Now, that's art!" or "That's art?"—Jennifer H. Krivickas, Univ. of Cincinnati Lib.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781844677962
Publisher:
Verso Books
Publication date:
07/24/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
File size:
20 MB
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