Since 2015, I’ve been visiting participatory arts projects, observing work and interviewing artists. I wanted to understand better what is happening now and listen attentively to what artists say about their work. I’ve been talking to people from every generation – the pioneers who began in the 1960s and the young artists just discovering the field and their own creativity today. I’ve given particular attention to work happening in other parts of Europe, shaped by other cultures and social contexts. So projects in Portugal, Spain, France, Poland, the Netherlands and elsewhere have been included.
This project is supported by the Gulbenkian Foundation in London and Lisbon and I’m very grateful for their confidence in it. The Foundation has been committed to community / participatory art for decades, often pioneering new developments. It currently has major programmes in the UK (Sharing the Stage) and in Portugal (PARTIS) and some of that activity will feature in this project.
There isn’t a fixed plan or timescale for A Restless Art, except that I expect to publish the book (in English and Portuguese) in 2017. But that will just be another chapter in this fascinating, unending story that has captivated me since I got a job as a community arts apprentice – also funded by the Gulbenkian Foundation – 35 years ago. It will certainly open new paths for discovery of which I’m still ignorant.
Some years ago, for a project called Regular Marvels, I began exploring a way of working that I described as ‘thinking in public’. It accepts the subjective, contingent nature of human experience while questioning our tendency to sacralise knowledge (and those who control it). It seemed necessary to work in this open, inclusive and tentative way when reflecting on arts practice since the nature and value of that practice is precisely its capacity to enfold the rational within a larger domain of human understanding.
A Restless Art uses the same approach. I post case studies, reports of meetings and general reflections here as the project develops. The site records ideas as they evolve, including dead ends and mistakes or revisions. I’ll also add resources (my own and other people’s) to make it easier to find material online. So do check back to follow the story if you’ve an interest in participatory arts practice. And if you’d like to talk to me, or tell me about some work that might be included or simply want to share some thoughts, please get in touch.