11 October 2012

participation // a journey to higher intellect

(i hope)

Since moving house my journey to and from work has become delightfully shorter yet frustratingly bit-y; I often find myself missing the 40 minute train journey I used to make twice a day that saw me race through books like wildfire. In my continuous (and generally so far unsuccessful) attempts to become more cultured, intelligent and generally fabulous, I've decided to 1) ensure I make the time on a regular basis to read (TOWIE can wait) and 2) work my way through some books that will actually open my mind and get my little grey cells working again.

I'm a great fan of contemporary art; I guess, if I had a 'specialist area' it would be art since-1950. Many people find contemporary art to be difficult to understand and engage with - I like it because I think it aims for exactly the opposite. I picked this little beaut up at the weekend on a bit of a whim. Part of the Whitechapel Gallery's Documents of Contemporary Art series it 'explores the desire to move viewers out of the role of passive observers and into the role of producers'. Editor Claire Bishop brings together writings from critics, curators and artists around the concept of participation within contemporary art and whilst some of the names (Barthes, Eco, Bourriaud) may incite the age-old I JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND IT-fear, the 195 page-count does something to calm the fear whimpering inside me.

I actually managed to read the introduction by Bishop herself all in one go on the train the other day. Already, after just a couple of pages, I could feel the cogs moving, the rust crumbling and my brain building stamina as it moved from crawling to jogging back into gear.

Having now made a significant dent in the first of the readings, I am beginning to comprehend the complex nuances between the terms 'open' and 'closed' work, and the variant levels of participation an author can encourage. Whilst Sol LeWitt left detailed instructions for recreating his line works so that, despite who recreated them, they would always be identical to his original piece, Damien Hirst tells those creating 'his' spot paintings that the spots must be of equal size and distance with no discernible pattern - but leaves exact colour and sequence (or, rather, lack of one) up to them. With Hirst we see aspects of collaboration, a form of participation. Some artists take this concept further, and begin to create co-producers out of spectators to their work. Anything involving this element of creativity and input on from a person (or people) separate from the artist opens up the possibility for numerous different outcomes. How could you not love work that is unpredictable, fleeting and ever-changing?

It's nothing groundbreaking, but I'm enjoying it. I'll keep you updated. Plus, how cute is the series?!-

On 'participation': 'this apparatus is better, the more consumers it is able to turn into producers - that is, the more readers or spectators into collaborators' - Walter Benjamin

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