The emergence of participatory art with a desire to move viewers out of the role of passive observers into the role of co-creators has been evolving for decades in contemporary art and theatre practice and theory. In the 70’s, artist and activist Joseph Beuys created the term “Social Sculpture” to illustrate his idea of art’s potential to transform society in which everyone has the potential to be an artist.
Participatory Art is more relevant today then ever: in NYC The City of New York has a large Urban art Program that is participatory based; curators like Nato Thomas of Creativetime and Marina Abramović’s ‘the Artist Is Present’ at Moma caused a frenzy; the UK’s LIFT festival and Melbourne’s Festival of Live Art all strive to engage audience through participation.
This step away from large scale spectacle to deliver a more human intimate experience was what formed the concept for Brisbane’s Metro Arts latest Takeover, (The View) From Here: A Small Perspective on Big Ideas. A four day event that consumes the six-story building in Brisbane’s CBD with hot contemporary art from across the nation. Solo work, intimate engagements and participatory experiences will all be on offer, presenting exciting opportunities to experience art in a way unlike any other.
Talking to Metro Art’s Artistic Director Jo Thomas about the inspiration for the programming of this work she said “I was looking at our world last year and all these big issues with things like terrorism, the movement of people as refugees and wondering about how we can address these issues through arts and culture ….and it made me think a lot about the human side of art and wanting to have something a bit more connected, more about one on one immersive……a really human experience for people.
LISTEN TO FULL JO THOMAS PODCAST HERE
The program included work such as Wank Bank & Pussy Play by Rural Ranga (Adam Seymour) & Strawberry Siren. The show originally created by Seymour is an interactive class where everyone who attends gets a carrot and a cucumber and leaves with 20 techniques for a perfect hand job. Responding to feedback about “What about the Vulva? “ He collaborated with his cousin Strawberry Siren, Miss Burlesque Australia and bought the fabulous “Clitarina” a large sequinned Vulva to life to educate the audience on pussy play. Seymour said about the importance of the work “ It’s quite shocking how many people know very little about themselves and shocking how many women are disgusted with themselves I want to help get rid of the shame around the vagina.”
Rural Ranga with Clitorina video interview
Martyn Coutts work Shell Game explores the outcomes for the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea while the participant island hops through corporate spaces in the Brisbane CBD in a one on one experience with Coutts as he divines their future via Tarot Cards and explores the geo politics of the regions.
Martyn Couts Video Interview
The Garden of Shatrick mythologizes the genesis story of Shatrick in an intimate retelling of Shannon Tonkin and Patrick Zaia’s unification. Vocally charged, the durational performance adjunctly echoes dramatic tones from the biblical dimension in a seductive, sexless salute to hybridisation, love and transcendence.
Shannon Tonkin and Patrick Zaia video interview
For some people this kind of work sounds like torture an incarnation of their worst nightmare an idea echoed by an art historian and critic, Claire Bishop author of “Artificial Hells” a major opponent of the validation of what these art forms really bring to the table, in both viewer experience and to art as a form itself. She wrote on the subject “Current social art practices have become speciously entangled in the ethics of using people as a material.”
When queried about this performer Robbie O’Brien creator of Pay also part of the program responded “A lot of people are intimidated by interactive art and a lot of interactive art is quite mean to their audience, that’s the gimmick…. artist are now looking for much more inclusive and friendly ways of actually engaging the audience.”
Robbie O’Brien video interview
The Visual Art component is strongly built around the exhibition Social Structures dealing with personal narratives and stories around relationship but that all use very industrial material, the work is large scale but very fragile creating a tangible tension. Curator Amy-Clare McCarthy described the work by the artists Kinly Grey, Anna McMahon and Tayla Jay Haggarty as “Tenuous, they are suspended, there’s a lot of things hanging, there’s bodies in the space, there’s glass balancing, so it’s big impact but really delicate.”
Live interviews opening night with Amy-Clare McCarthy, Kinly Grey, Anna McMahon and Tayla Jay Haggarty
Overall The Metro Arts Takeover had an arresting energy driven by makers who are still willing to take risks, push boundaries and give audiences the opportunity to step into a real human space with an emotional closeness where deep inner personal truths maybe revealed.
Metro Arts The View From Here: A Small Perspective on Big Ideas ran 7 – 10th of June
The exhibition Social Structures is on until 24th June
More popsart here
Headline photo: Curator Amy-Clare McCarthy and artist Tayla Jay Haggarty in front of “Well Hung”