From the Studio

thoughts on art and process in action from a contemporary artist

Distinctions: Participatory, Interactive and Collaborative Art

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Since I create in both Participatory and Interactive work (sometimes in the same piece) and the words are often used interchangeably and can verge on collaboration I’d like to make the distinctions for you.

Participatory work is at least partially created by participants.  The work cannot be made or completed without them.   For me, meaningful contribution to the work is an important part of it- they are not just a body filling a space in the piece when told to, but they are offering something of themselves to the work- such as an experience, a mark, a gesture, a memory, or opinion. 

This is different than a collaboration because I (as the artist) am setting everything up, staging things and building the framework literally or figuratively.  The participants contribute within the framework I set up (and sometimes push the boundaries), but they don’t have a share in final decisions about the framework.  I do very actively seek out opinions, responses and ideas from people when building the framework for participatory pieces, but in the end I’m the one who decides.  If it were collaborative, we would decide together and there would be an extended process of cross-pollination throughout building the piece.

The “Write me for Art” piece is Participatory in that I’ve been asking people to send me their handwritten responses to questions and without those responses there would be no piece.  In some sense the final piece will be interactive because people will be able to move and hold the machine-embroidered parts of the piece, but the second phase doesn’t allow for participation in the same way.

Interactive work is something which invites interaction from the viewer and which may change or react when the viewer activates it in some way (by pushing a button, triggering a motion sensor or picking something up).  The viewer’s actions create a response in the piece and the piece creates a response in the viewer- on a physical level.  All art is potentially interactive on the emotional/psychological level though our impact on the piece is much more abstract (how we frame it, talk about it, place it in history, etc.).

Identity Tapestry and Scales are both simultaneously Interactive and Participatory. Urban Pulse had a participatory phase (collecting stories and pulses) followed by an interactive phase in the Gallery.

It’s an important distinction.


Written by marycoreymarch

December 9, 2013 at 10:21 am

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