♦ Spatial Collaborations ♦
My artworks offer polyvocal accounts of everyday situations and environments. These accounts take the form of collective electronic literature projects, using various forms of participation: collaborations with artists and writers; work composed in cooperation with specific groups (non-artists); and work involving audience participation, as well as those people who don’t realise that they are an audience (in situ interventions).
What I am doing with these participatory artworks is using them to gather information on, and draw attention to, everyday environments. These works do this through interventions in commonplace environments; collective writing projects that explore how place is practised; gallery-based works which use generative processes and audience inputs to cast some light on the technologies that we are using now; or whatever next I happen to think of, on the assumption that it might be an interesting thread to follow.
As a practitioner, I admit a certain curiosity concerning participatory art: concerns such as what it actually is, and what it could become. However, it is obvious that there is a sliding scale of public participation from ‘barely engaged, but going through the motions’ to ‘fully committed’ and of roles in participatory artworks from ‘rigidly assigned’ through to ‘co-creation’. However, my projects would be impossible without the participants’ contributions, as they are structured to allow the participants to define their own space.
I am not interested in collaboration to bring about a coherent and unified position on a particular situation. I am not interested in observing what is there and imposing meaning on it. What does interest me is connecting with a space—if only for a moment—as long as it is enough to hear the voices of those in that space. I am also interested in enabling others to do so too: these projects are attempts to offer the practitioners within these spaces a chance to speak for themselves, whilst giving others the opportunity to read or hear what they have to say. These works direct an audience’s attention to everyday environments. If they have a transformative effect, by making someone think differently about places and social practices, then so much the better.
What I have said above is only part of my process: what I’m doing is running a series of experimental sites, to see if it is possible to use participatory artworks as a means of gathering information on, and drawing attention to, everyday environments, simply because I will never know whether it is possible until I try.
♦ ♦ ♦
Gerry Smith is an intermedia artist and PhD student at Edinburgh College of Art, where he is exploring the use of participatory works within an endotic research process. www.iamatextbasedartist.com