Participatory art is a term that describes a form of art that directly engages the audience in the creative process so that they become participants in the event

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  • Roman Ondák, 'Good Feelings in Good Times' 2003
    Roman Ondák
    Good Feelings in Good Times 2003
    overall display dimensions variable
    Purchased using funds provided by the 2004 Outset / Frieze Art Fair Fund to benefit the Tate Collection 2005© Roman Ondák
  • Tania Bruguera, 'Tatlin's Whisper #5' 2008
    Tania Bruguera
    Tatlin's Whisper #5 2008
    Two uniformed mounted policemen, crowd control police technique, two horses (one white, one black or dark brown), audience
    © Tania Bruguera
  • Women licking jam off car in 1964.
    Allan Kaprow, Household: Women licking jam off car 1964
  • Spartacus Chetwynd performing Delirious at the Serpentine Gallery 2006
    Spartacus Chetwynd performing Delirious at the Serpentine Gallery 2006

In this respect, the artist is seen as a collaborator and a co-producer of the situation (with the audience), and these situations can often have an unclear beginning or end. 

Participatory art has its origins in the futurist and dada performances of the early twentieth century, which were designed to provoke, scandalise and agitate the public. In the late 1950s the artist Allan Kaprow devised performances called happenings, in which he would coerce the audience into participating in the experience. The French film-maker and writer Guy Debord, founder of situationism, also promoted a form of participatory art in that he wished to eliminate the spectator’s position by devising industrial paintings: paintings created en masse. The contemporary artist Marvin-Gaye Chetwynd relies entirely on willing participants to create her performances, as does the activist artist Tania Bruguera. In her work Surplus Value, participants were asked to wait in line and then randomly selected into those who could enter the work and others who were submitted to lie detector tests, in order to highlight the problems of immigration.

In focus

Tania Bruguera

Bruguera’s 2012 work at Tate Modern, Surplus Value, explores questions surrounding immigration with a provocative multidisciplinary piece, requiring people to line up and pass a polygraph test concerning visa applications before they can be granted access to the inner gallery.

Marvin-Gaye Chetwynd

Marvin-Gaye Chetwynd (formerly Spartacus Chetwynd) selects footage from some of her past performance events, and talks about her carnivalesque live performances.