Welcome

A Restless Art is a website (and soon a book) about community and participatory arts practice. It’s about what those practices are, how people think about them, why they’re done and what happens as a result. In other words the site is about ideas, not instruction. It’s called ‘a restless art’ because participatory art is unstable, changing and contested. It involves a huge range of ideas and practices. It’s bursting with artistic, political, ethical and philosophical tensions but I don’t see them as weaknesses. They give participatory art life, energy and creativity. They are what make it matter in people’s lives.

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They’re also what has kept me working in community art for more than 35 years, as an artist, manager, teacher, researcher and writer. A Restless Art is a way for me to think about and share some of that experience, so there’s a certain amount of history here and projects from the past. I think it’s important to know where ideas come from and what they have meant in the past. It’s valuable too to know about the successes and mistakes of the past. That bigger landscape is where we all work and position ourselves.

But I’m equally interested in what is happening to participatory art now. In fact, it has never seemed stronger and more important than it is today. A new generation of artists is working in ways I never imagined, all over the world. I’m learning about work in Egypt, Turkey, Ukraine, Greece, Morocco and many other places: some of that finds its way here. My intention is not prescriptive or to even collect some kind of ‘good practice’ – though if work is here, I think it’s at least interesting. There are many, many ways of doing good participatory art projects. I know what I believe, but I also know that’s just one path. And as time passes, and I see more work, I understand how small is what I do know.

Even so, if you are about participatory art, I hope you’ll find things on these pages to inspire, encourage and interest you – as well as things to argue against. It’s often by understanding why we don’t agree with what others do that we work out why we think as we do. There are almost 100 entries on the blog pages, and the tags will help you find subjects that interest you. The case studies look at individual projects in more detail, but the links pages will take you to other project sites. Finally the resources pages gather some documents from previous decades. Thanks for visiting.