The term art intervention applies to art designed specifically to interact with an existing structure or situation, be it another artwork, the audience, an institution or in the public domain

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  • Stuart Brisley, 'Beneath Dignity Bregenz' 1977
    Stuart Brisley
    Beneath Dignity Bregenz 1977
    Photograph on paper
    image: 425 x 546 mm
    Purchased 1981© Stuart Brisley
  • John Latham, 'Derelict Land Art: Five Sisters' 1976
    John Latham
    Derelict Land Art: Five Sisters 1976
    Wood, photograph, glass jar and shale
    object: 1219 x 1829 x 241 mm
    Purchased 1976© The estate of John Latham (noit prof. of flattime), courtesy Lisson Gallery, London
  • Roman Ondák, Measuring the Universe 2007
    Roman Ondák
    Measuring the Universe 2007
    Presented at Tate St Ives, 2011
  • Doris Salcedo Shibboleth 2008 installation view
    Doris Salcedo
    Shibboleth 2008

The popularity for art interventions emerged in the 1960s, when artists attempted to radically transform the role of the artist in society, and thereby society itself. They are most  commonly associated with conceptual art and performance art. 

The French filmmaker and writer Guy Debord, founder of situationism, wished to eliminate the spectator’s position. In 1960 he devised a raid on an international art conference in Belgium. Other collectives, like the Artist Placement Group (APG) in London attempted to reposition the role of the artist in a wider social and political context using art interventions. They acted outside the conventional gallery system, placing artists within industry and government departments in order to effect change. Such interventions served as a catalyst for artist-in-residence schemes and community programmes.

In focus

Roman Ondak’s Measuring the Universe

Roman Ondak’s Measuring the Universe at Tate St Ives 2011 transformed an empty white room into a constellation of black marks through the contribution of around 90’000 participants.

Doris Salcedo’s Shibboleth

 In 2007 Doris Salcedo responded to her commission to make a work of art for the vast Turbine Hall at Tate Modern by creating a long snaking fissure that runs the vast length of the floor of the space – as if striking the very foundations of the museum.