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Id 99
Author Matarasso, F.,
Title A restless art. How participation won, and why it matters.

Matarasso, F. (2019). A restless art. How participation won, and why it matters. Lisbon and London: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

Keywords community; participatory art; social impact; empowerment
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Abstract A Restless Art is about community and participatory art. It’s about what those practices are, how people think about them, why they’re done and what happens as a result. It’s called ‘a restless art’ because this work is unstable, changing and contested. It involves a range of ideas and practices. It crackles with artistic, political, ethical and philosophical tensions that give it life, energy and creativity. They make it matter in people’s lives.

Metodology Interviews with artists from different territorial contexts during different visits to participatory art projects

Findings Matarasso exposes several reflections throughout the book. First, he opens up the book by showing how participation has become normalised art practice and policy in the course of the past 20 years, and outlines the inherently unstable nature of participatory art, making a connection with the concept of ‘border-situations’ developed by the philosopher Karl Jaspers. Then, he sets out some foundational ideas about the concept of art itself; and suggests definitions of ‘Participatory art’ (an all-encompassing term for the work) and ‘Community art’ (a practice rooted in human rights discourse and with an overtly emancipatory purpose). He argues in this context that only the act of creating art can define a person as an artist, although there is an important difference between people who do it professional and those who don’t. He also explains of why he doesn’t see most contemporary art or amateur art to be participatory art, even when it involves participation as a strategy. Then, he suggests that there are three broad reasons why people make participatory art, each of which is rooted in distinct theories, policies and ideas about art. They are: Increasing access to art (cultural democratisation); Creating social change; and Advancing cultural democracy. Chapter 5 considers the aesthetics of participatory art, arguing that its form and meaning are radically changed by the cooperation of professional and non-professional artists. It considers the importance of process, seeing it not as antithetical to product but as leading to the creation of art that cannot be meaningfully assessed by existing standards rooted in concepts of fine art and professional production within a capitalist economy. The chapter ends by proposing an approach to thinking about artistic quality that can consider both product and process. Then, the author looks at some of the ethical issues that arise from the inequalities of power inherent in participatory art. The third part of the book is dedicated to the historical excursus of participatory art. Finally, in the conclusions, Matarasso brings together some of the threads of the book, arguing that the change documented in the book is historic and welcome. It marks a gradual healing of the divide between Fine Art — which remains a vital, critically conscious resource — and all other forms of art. Committed, progressive artists, including the community art movement, played a critical role in enabling this change, but it has mainly happened because of deeper socio-economic and cultural changes. There follows a brief overview of what participatory art needs (i.e. resources, trust and professional development) and what it does not need – largely condescension. The book concludes by acknowledging the dangerous, unstable and vulnerable state of the world in the early 21st century. It affirms the author belief that participatory art, and especially community art, is a powerful, emancipatory and democratic resource with which we can respond to change and imagine better futures.
Open Access YES
Search Database Researcher knowledge
Technique Interview; Case studies; Visits
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