Mapping the Socially Engaged Arts in Europe

Kirsti Reitan Andersen, Víctor Renza, Christian Fieseler

Research output: Book/ReportReportResearch


Building on the literature review on the social and civic impacts of the arts’ undertaken as part of this project, i.e. Task 4.1 (Andersen et al., 2020), this report indexes artworks that address the emancipatory, questionable and/or destructive effects of the digital transformation. We introduce artists and various forms of artist collectives and organisations within Europe that use artistic methods as a way of investigating and understanding the digital transformation and as a catalyst for exploring alternative futures. Starting from an all-inclusive search for artistic practices that explore challenges and opportunities within the digital transformation, this report pays particular attention to artists who adopt socially engaged and participatory art practices in their work. We looked for artworks that aimed to create and foster social interactions through active participation in diverse experimental methodologies, including workshops, social sculptures, social events, and co-created artworks. The artworks included in this indexing, or mapping, are illustrative of the wide variety of methods developed by artists and artist organisations in their ambition to engage with audiences and communities of people in a constructive dialogue concerning the future of digital technologies. Many of the artworks dealing with the digital transformation explore artistic uses of a given technology while also investigating specific cultural and social impacts of the technological changes we are experiencing today. One such approach is the creation of installations for exhibitions, both indoors and outdoors, which mix the use of digital and analogue technologies. In these artworks the participatory process often includes the use of electronic and digital components in a two-way relationship, demonstrating not only the possible artistic uses of technology but also reflecting on itself. Another approach we evidence here in our mapping is that of participatory artistic performances. The performances included in this report highlight an important aspect of socially engaged art in demonstrating the typically ephemeral nature of such work. Unlike artworks that can last longer over time, socially engaged art is rooted in the involvement of participants, either directly or through digital devices. Another set of examples of artworks indexed here includes the work of artists who use online platforms to strengthen social networks within their communities. These artists focus on issues that mix digital and social aspects, and the platforms they develop are the outcome of constant feedback from interactions between the artists and the participants. In sum, this report introduces artists who involve their audiences and participants in the creation of the artwork as a means of building bridges between people and ongoing debates about the impacts of the digital transformation, including various forms of artistic organisations working to create more diverse, democratic and equal digital futures. While we have noted that the initiatives included in our mapping tend to be short-lasting, these findings also indicate key themes that have evolved over the years, showing a thread between current affairs and the use of arts as a means of responding to such reality and dilemmas
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOslo
Number of pages88
Publication statusPublished - 2022
SeriesArtsformation Report Series

Bibliographical note

Report of the EU H2020 Research Project Artsformation: Mobilising the Arts for an Inclusive Digital Transformation.

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