Reinstating the artist’s voice: Artists’ perspectives on participatory projects

Journal of Sociology
Hilary Glow
Katya Johanson

Claire Bishop argued that the ethical lens applied to socially engaged arts practice encourages ‘authorial renunciation’ in favour of collaboration and limits the opportunity to expose such practice to critical reception. This article responds to Bishop’s implicit call to envision an artist-centred framework for participatory arts by identifying the motivations and beneficial discoveries that artists make when they seek out the creative involvement of others. Based on interviews with Australian performing artists who have established socially engaged practices, the article aims to bring about a form of ‘authorial reinstatement’ into the value system around participatory arts practice. It identifies a range of motivations for artists who establish socially engaged or participatory practice, from self-developmental to altruistic; and from arts-focused to community- and society-focused. The article argues that using these motivations to inform indicators of achievement for participatory practice provides new opportunities for critical interrogation of those practices.