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PArticipatory artwork with clay sculptures

From Brighton Based Visual Artist and Printmaker Moatzart

This work is in the tradition of relational aesthetics and the participatory work of the ’90s, as outlined by theorists such as Nicolas Bourriaud, Claire Bishop, and Kester Grant. Traditionally, such artists as Rirkirt Tiravanija or more recently David Shrigley, in his Life Model series, involve their audience in a happening instigated by them, to create what Bourriaud calls an interstice, “a space in human relations which fits into the overall system but suggests other trading possibilities than those in effect”. Claire Bishop criticizes this practice on several grounds: a. the high moral ground given to artists as they renounce authorship and become instigators of participatory work which aims to be about collectivity and collaboration, b. the effect of their work being minimal as it complies with the system more than it disturbs (i.e. – still takes place in elitist spaces – the gallery - between gallery goers, the artist still benefits from the work being made – boosts his own practice – still in a position of power).


Taking her criticism into account, I respond ironically to this way of working with the audience, as I put myself in the instigator position to claim authorship at the very end and question the relation between the two. Furthermore, instead of just creating a collective situation in a passive environment i.e. gallery/studio, I am then showing its documentation as a final work to raise questions about how participatory practice can become more self-aware in its relationship with the public and the division of labor involved. Through the work, I stress the idea that even as the instigator of a happening, you remain the authority and thus have authorship of the situation, and the involvement of the public still serves your interest in creating a mini utopia.


In the Author as Producer, Walter Benjamin makes the claim that social conditions are determined by conditions of production, and this work reflects this idea. Like Santiago Sierra’s harrowing images where the conditions of production reflect the systematic social relationships between actors, I aim to expose the dangers participatory art suffers from being exploitative, rather than helpful, by very clearly exploiting an audience of artists through asking them to make work I eventually destroy and change to my pleasure.

Turning audience participation on its head, I wanted the work to be hyper-aware of the fact that when artwork involves the audience, they become the producers of the work. Therefore, the audience made my work for me, and I proved ownership through destruction - if it's mine, I shall do with it what I want! This faux was meant to explore the exchange between artist and audience in works where the audience participates. Since relational art cannot be without an audience, they become the art and the producers - but are unrecognized as such. I wanted to forcibly make this point, by asking them to make work for me and proving ownership of the work by destroying it.

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