Claire Bishop: Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship, 2012

A recurrent set of theoretical reference points governs the current litera- ture on participatory and collaborative art: Walter Benjamin, Michel de Certeau, the Situationist International, Paulo Freire, Deleuze and Guattari, and Hakim Bey, to name just a few. Among these, the most frequently cited is the French film-maker and writer Guy Debord, for his indictment of the alienating and divisive effects of capitalism in The Society of the Spectacle (1967), and for his theorisation of collectively produced ‘situations’. For many artists and curators on the left, Debord’s critique strikes to the heart of why participation is important as a project: it rehumanises a society rendered numb and fragmented by the repressive instrumentality of capitalist production. Given the market’s near total saturation of our image repertoire, so the argument goes, artistic practice can no longer revolve around the construction of objects to be consumed by a passive bystander. Instead, there must be an art of action, interfacing with reality, taking steps—however small—to repair the social bond.

Bishop, Claire. Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship. London: Verso, 2012.