The Art of Inclusion

For the September/October issue of the Visual Artists’ News Sheet, I’m focusing on forms of participation and collaboration. This concern stems from a continued insistence in my own practice as a curator in a local authority on interrogating the work of artists working in social, participatory contexts. We are thinking of participation as progressive – as preferable to elitism, exclusion and bureaucracy, for instance – but we need to think of the value of participation as completely dependent upon the value of the project in which one participates. It tells us a lot about how art and artists are being routinely interrogated. And I think this is extremely flawed. In order to delve deeper into the conundrum of participatory practice, I sent the following text to each of the invited contributors as a provocation: “People in the art world seem to have subscribed wholesale to the idea that participation or collaboration is an athletic sport in which artists must compete for their form of participation to be deeper, stronger, faster, longer and purer. The ideal form of participation or collaboration then hangs over every project that even hints at participation. This is not true of the experience of the spectator, who remains outside the work.

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