The Gestures of Participatory Art
Book: The Gestures of Participatory Art
Written by: Sruti Bala
Published by: Manchester University Press (2018)
Sruti Bala’s ‘The Gestures of Participatory Art’ re-imagines the idea of participation in theatre, performance and visual art and foregrounds it in the social and political aspects of civic participation. In order to examine the fraught linkages of institutions to participatory performance, Bala problematizes the relationship that art has to society. — explored through a community-based theatre project from Sudan, a flash mob performance by an Israeli activist group protesting a Cape Town Opera production and visual artist Pilvi Takala’s experiment to enter Disneyland as Snow White. Since participatory art has distinct histories in different parts of the world, the author is not interested in establishing a historical genealogy of it. The book also makes no attempt to list a set of parameters through which a proper participatory project can be recognised — an attempt that creates a universal and a standardised position as to what can constitute a participatory art form and therefore, is futile. Instead, the book offers a comprehensive understanding of moments of ‘unsolicited participation’ which ranges from audience participation in live performances, to being involved in creative processes of longer durations, such as partaking in video games, citizen journalism, flash-mobs and forum theatre, amongst others.
“The analysis of participation thus seeks to link the macro-dimension of participation in social development with the micro-dimension of community theatre practice. Of particular interest is how participation occurs by way of a nuanced range of reactions, with functions ranging from the disruptive to the ameliorative. The case study calls for methodological attention to ancillary activities that take place at the margins of the theatre event.” (p.21)