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Participatory Art Claire Bishop Daniel / Langlois / Bourriaud

Week 4: Claire Bishop, Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship, London and New York, (2012): Verso. ISBN: 978 1 84467 690 3.

In artificial hell, Bishop makes an impressive reach into history and by so doing, sets apart the work from the sudden flurry of academic interest at the time around the question of the social in art. In addition, artificial art represents its signal contribution to the field. By reaching back through history, Bishop is able to take in diverse practises which when considered together effectively highlight the eruption of participatory art in times of political upheaval and/or transition. At the core of Bishop’s argument however are the aesthetic and ideological variations amongst them.

Through the historicising approach, Bishop is able to open up debates around the social in art, but then, this is that betrays the perversity in her project. Participatory art is defined through its resistance to conventional notions of audience and therefore it’s difficult in being brought into view. Bishops relationship with the objects of contemporary artists is mainly that of included participants and not excluded spectators. From her work, it is clear that bishop fails to fully unpack an early argument regarding the cynical mobilization of the participatory art by neoliberal power bearers.

Bishop indicates a process in which publicly-funded participatory projects are often used to smooth over shortcomings in social provision by the state hence the reason why she majors on examples beyond the USA and in particular where there is less state subsidy of the arts. She argues that the manipulation of such projects/organizations by the state parallels the uncomfortable relationship of participatory art to new labour. In the final pages of her book, Bishop remarks that participatory art today stands without association to any existing political projects. She makes references to the UK and the institutional framework of the Arts Council and indicates the increased distance between political and artistic positions, but she fails to address what she referred to as the neoliberal new world order and its extent.

However, it may be argued that her not resolving these issues points to an objective to relieve artists of the requirements that lie outside of the arts specific area of political and social activity. In conclusion, Artificial Hells is a highly engaging piece on the history of participatory art and brings to the forefront important debates on the radical potential of art and the relationship that exists between artists, critics, and the art audience.


Week 5: Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) and the Foundation Daniel Langlois, Devices of Design: Colloquium & Roundtable Discussion. 18 November to 19 November 2004

Devices of Design was as a result of the increased and widespread use of digital media and software technology in design of architecture and construction. The piece therefore addresses both the consequences of this shift and its implications on contemporary architectural theory and practice as well as the urgent need to understand better the archival; and conservation issues that are a result of such media and technology for architectural research institutions globally. The colloquium and roundtable discussions initiate in-depth discussion among historians, theorists, and designers in architecture and explore the crucial relationship that exists between the techniques and tools of design on one hand and the modes of perceiving and conceiving architecture on the other hand.

The effects and results of using media and software technology are self-evident, but to adequately understand the importance and role of new digital technologies in architecture as well as their status as records of the architectural design process therefore the long-term fate “archival documents” it is instructive to reflect on earlier revolutions in the media and modes of architectural design. Before the introduction of digital media, the modes and media in architectural design included paper and the instruments of drawing, geometrical and mathematical measurements and calculations, descriptive analytics, blueprints, architectural models, the first computers with a primal black screen, and the advanced software at the dispose of architects at the beginning of the 21st century. It is therefore worth noting that at every instance where a new instrument of design has been introduced, there was a new attitude formed, a fundamental shift occurred, a new concern arose, and a new paradigm installed.

The Devices of Design colloquium initiated an in-depth discussion among the various architectural stakeholders and according to the CCA and The Daniel Langlois Foundation; these discussions are the preliminary steps in the longer-range efforts to address the crucial archival and conservation problems that are as a result of the use of the new-media by designers in the entire world. However, the question of how to handle, preserve, and archive the new digital media artefacts presupposes a more fundamental issues on what to preserve and why it should be preserved.


Week 6: Nicolas Bourriaud, Postproduction: Culture as Screenplay: How Art Reprograms the World. New York: Lukas & Sternberg, 2002. ISBN 0-9711193-0-9. Translated by Jeanine Herman.

Bourriaud discusses how since the early nineties there has been an increase in the number of artworks that have been created on the basis of pre-existing works; artists interpret, reproduce, re-exhibit, or utilize the works availed by others or available culture products. In this curatorial view, Bourriaud argues that artist takes that which has already been produced in culture and through creative postproduction means, expresses a new cultural configuration that speaks to both the contemporary culture and the remixed source materials. This is not particularly new, and as statement by Bourriaud, the patron of contemporary postproduction is Marcel Duchamp.

Bourriaud points out crucial remix art and theory themes; innovative methods of postproduction are the podus operandi of several contemporary artists, throughout the 80s with the democratization of computers and the emergence of sampling allowed for the development of new cultural configurations with the DJ and the programmer being the emblem figures, in addition to Duchamp, postproduction is indebted to detournement by Situationists and their offspring not to mention Lettrists who proceeded them, postproduction artists re-edit ideological or historical narratives and insert elements that compose them into alternative scenarios, and postproduction artists re-envision the exhibition of space as a space of cohabitation, a space then is between film set, decor, and information center.

Bourriaud writes that “notions of originality (being at the origin of) and even of creation (making something from nothing) are slowly blurred in this new cultural landscape marked by the twin figures of the DJ and the programmer, both of whom have the task of selecting cultural objects and inserting them into new contexts.” By considering the high performance attitude/mindset of contemporary DJ artists and mashing it up with the creative writing strategies employed by software programmers who engineer the development of computers, it is possible to see how the development of postproduction in the 21st century culture and art has changed in the last 30 years and present a theoretical image of where the future of art is headed.

The Do It Yourself trends in contemporary practise attempt to reposition postproduction artists of modern day as cultural figures who are not necessarily attached to the idea of playing the art world game and suggests a varying generational is emerging between those ready-for-the-mainstream artists that Bourriaud champions in Postproduction: Culture as Screenplay: How Art Reprograms the World and the exponentially growing number of amateur culture jammers whose observation of the new modes of digital creative challenge the 20th century notions of what an artist is.

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