Formatting Engagement in Participative Art Collaborations

Alice Neusiedler

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


Recently, we can observe an increasing interest in participative practices. Notions of co-creation, active citizenship, activation, citizen involvement etc. point to hopes for social innovation deriving from collaboration with formerly excluded actors. Those collaborations have also been criticised for being a burden for participants, questioning professionals’ autonomy, or being a myth. These different evaluations of participative practices tend to base their judgements either on the involvement of new actors as per se innovative, or, on external causual effects of these collaborations. Yet, they show little awareness for internal processes for the involved actors, ambivalences and modulating practices throughout the work process.
Based on 15 open interviews, which I analysed leaning on Documentary Method (Bohnsack 2013) and from a practice-theoretical perspective (Reckwitz 2002, Nicolini 2012, Hui 2017), I explore how actors format their engagement at the example of participative art projects. Participative art projects can be understood as extreme case for participative practices, as they not only collaborate, but – in opposite to other forms of collaboration – also need to display exactly the internal differences they are dealing with.

We can understand participation as a specific form of collaboration, which is linked to alternative organizing (Dobusch et al. 2019), by temporarily involving others in the core processes of art production, which formulates a claim on the involved person themselves. Participative art is characterized by different social positions and organizational roles of artists, as professionals, and participants, as experts of their life-worlds. I will argue that both practice modulation, evaluation and negotiation at different moments of the work process and with different points of reference, that is the (imagined) audience, and the artwork setting. While artists decide on participants involvement, but also modulate artistic expressions as non-professional, participants engage with artists and each other, shifting work process and arctic forms.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023
EventXX ISA World Congress of Sociology: Resurgent Authoritarianism: The Sociology of New Entanglements of Religions, Politics, and Economies - Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 25 Jun 20231 Jul 2023
Conference number: 20


ConferenceXX ISA World Congress of Sociology
LocationMelbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre
Internet address

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