Art intervention

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

Stuart Brisley, ‘Beneath Dignity’ 1977
Stuart Brisley
Beneath Dignity 1977
© Stuart Brisley
John Latham, ‘Derelict Land Art: Five Sisters’ 1976
John Latham
Derelict Land Art: Five Sisters 1976
© John Latham Estate, courtesy Lisson Gallery, London
Roman Ondák, Measuring the Universe 2007

Roman Ondák
Measuring the Universe 2007
Presented at Tate St Ives, 2011

Courtesy of the artist

Doris Salcedo Shibboleth 2008 installation view

Doris Salcedo
Shibboleth 2008

Marcus Leith and Andrew Dunkley © Tate 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.

See also


Audio Arts: Stuart Brisley, Georgiana Collection

Recordings of sound performances by Stuart Brisley from 1983–6 produced to coincide with the British touring exhibition of the ...

Tate Modern Exhibition

Project Space: A Chronicle of Interventions

2 May – 13 Jul 2014
Tate Modern exhibition entitled A chroncile of Interventions as parts of Project Space series. Artists are responding to the history ...