Art Term

Participatory art

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

Roelof Louw, ‘Soul City (Pyramid of Oranges)’ 1967
Roelof Louw
Soul City (Pyramid of Oranges) 1967
© Roelof Louw

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.

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participatory art at tate

  • Tate Modern


    Meschac Gaba: Museum of Contemporary African Art

    3 Jul – 22 Sep 2013
    Tate Modern installation Meschac Gaba’s Museum of Contemporary African Art blurs the boundaries between art and the everyday. Summer ...
  • Tate Liverpool


    Making It

    29 Jul – 29 Oct 1995
    Making It 1995 - works by young artists past exhibition at Tate Liverpool
  • Tate Modern


    The World as a Stage

    24 Oct 2007 – 1 Jan 2008
    The World as a Stage at Tate Modern 24 October 2007 – 1 January 2008. This exhibition investigates ideas of ‘theatre ...