Read : Restless Art

Exploring the role of art extending within community and participatory movements, A Restless Art explores the multi-disciplinary aim of arts and cultural systems. Matarasso uses examples of existing practices to extend the world of art between social practices, through this engaging further through into cultural progression and disruptive philosophies. Following the contextual and historical perspectives surrounding socially engaged art and the further critique on this philosophy, a combination of reflexive definitions and enhanced observations in the influence that extends between the art world and a democratic form of social practice.  


Matarasso, François. 2019. A Restless Art: How Participation Won, and Why It Matters. Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.


Pg x “participatory art - creative and democratic space in which we can discover, process, understand, organise and share our experience”

Pg 19 “art is the foundation of every society’s cultural life” - participatory art is shared creative act - connecting everyday cultural participation with the self-consciousness of contemporary art practice

Pg 20 : 70’s radical freedom movement “art is vital to human flourishing, that everyone has the capacity to create and define it, and that full, free and equal participation in cultural life is both a human right and a path towards a more just and democratic society.” - challenged elite individualistic art culture value

Pg 21 : within arts & cultural institutions, social, urban & economic policy, health & education services, criminal justice, housing, the voluntary sector, the media, across the internet and in communities everywhere

Ecosystem of artists, social organisations, community art groups, development workers, educators & activists

Pg 26 : connects art, social work, politics, philosophy, environmentalism, therapy, community development, activism, health, aesthetics, social justice, etc;”

Changing consciousness through confrontation - fear, chance guilt forms the self - border situation

Pg 27 : edge of normative social structures - confronts with new questions

Disrupts concepts & disciplines to form self-awareness

Pg 28 : burden of responsibility from an artistic act - awareness of our own assumptions choices & responsibilities - self-conscious and critical art

Decline in systems for collective sense-making placed burden on culture as a source of meaning, identity and transcendence

Pg 29 : cannot solve, but allow us to face

“a space … all can speak and be heard, pain and our hopes can be shared, where we can build common ground and ways of working together, where our creativity and empathy find better ways of living” Art is a power - can be exploitative, controlling but empowering and transformative

Pg 34 - 36 : art as an object - skill to create works (things) and value is emotional

Art as typology : cultural order

Art as act : to create and communicate meaning - sense-making beings

Art as meaning : concept of intention

Pg 38 “art is the creation of meaning through stories, images, sounds, performances and other methods that enable people to communicate their experience of and feelings about being alive”

A viewer “construes possible meanings in response, makes own judgements about the coherence and value of those meanings”

Pg 39 : Artist - no control but create a framework of possible responses and interpretations = creator and re-creator - unpredictable exchange through prism of individual experience and becomes a territory of meetings and human relations

Pg 40 : art & culture express human values and meanings - art focuses on self-consciousness with intentional responses & acts, mediating between personal and the collective

Pg 41 : respond critically to society, empowered artists imaginatively, use to confront, ease and unite - collective experience

Art and children - art developmentally is a method, not a skill

Pg 42 : interrelated cycle of actions : discover (feelings, ideas, incomprehensible aspects of their experience) process (pulling it apart and creatively rebuilding with imaginative pathways) understand (likes, etc;, moral positions) organise (sense of imagination and taming wonder) and share (testing perceptions and positions, influencing)

Pg 43 : art teaches us to accept fluid and changeable human experience - excluded often from public spaces “where we can explore, discover, share and become who we are, in relative safety, alone and together”

Art and human rights : intrinsic value, right to participate in cultural life & be given a voice & democratic freedom “accepting all complexities and ambiguities of human experience” - this is why we share

Pg 45 - 48 : art - created by professional artists

participatory : something we join - professional & non-professional artists, cultural democratisation - collaborative process in which artists make work & must involve creation (a framework of values, ideas and references, application of knowledge & craft, duration in time and some form of presentation)

Community : collective and shared - cultural democracy - rights based approach for emancipatory social engagement

Pg 49 : Difference between learning about art & creating : both enabling to process, discover, process, understand, organise & share our experience but creating we bring something into existence & changing the world

Everyone involved in participatory artistic act is an artist - social identity

Pg 50 : Ambiguous borders : arts learning experience, work of art using participation as a strategy, social intervention using art as a tool and participatory art itself - quality comes from engaging in others ways of sense-making - demands thinking, feeling, talking and sharing in new ways with others

Pg 51 : Community art : creation as a human right, co-operating as equals for purposes set together and unknown outcomes - artistic act that may have social and political consequences but that is not the intention of the act

Pg 57 : Authored work of artists when conceiving, planning, organising snd instigating : participation can be used as a tool - enabled by the art worlds intellectual, historical and artists

Pg 62 : conditional consent - respect decisions, values, judgements & boundaries

Pg 63 : “Language of policy-makers does not always reflect desires, culture & needs of those for whom the project is being planned” - idealism, jargon or expectation - question the ethical dimensions - art is experiential not theoretical otherwise becomes a philosophy

Pg 64 : Increasing access to art (or cultural democratisation)

Arts believe in the transformative power of art - desire to share

Pg 68 : Everyone has the right to experience (a guarantee) but not inspiration

“None of us is an empty vessel, waiting to be filled with art and culture. We are independent people with agency. We have identities, values and tastes. We respond to new experience through past ones.”

Vital extending access to arts - legitimacy depends on mutuality of the invitation

enjoy, appreciate, question, reimagine and even reject

Pg 69 : Creating social change

Strives for emergence of consciousness and critical intervention in reality

Pg 71 : drama encourages exploration, emotion, confrontation and discovery - safely face vulnerabilities and actions, highlighting personal change

Pg 72 : philosophical and political tensions between individual and social change - policy-makers personalise social need

Pg 76 : privileged access to cultural authority - culture shapes how we think & act where citizens argue, persuade or negotiate

Pg 77 : “Cultural democracy is to right & capacity to participate fully, freely, equally in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and create, publish & distribute artistic work”

Passive receivers of culture or active creators

Pg 80 : collaborative art room, culture of exploration and ownership “self portrait = inside”

Pg 83 : instability of participatory arts “everyone enters it’s space from another existing territory - own true and incomplete image” - conflicting intentions and continual shifts and adjustment of positions

Pg 84 : cultural democracy, cultural demonisation and social change combined intentions

Pg 89 : professional and non-professional artists, fusing process and product

Questioning the fine art superiority over quality? Right of judgement

Professionals bring skill, talent, knowledge, experience, resources, cycles of expression, reception & reflection however non-professionals bring open mind, unawareness and cultural un-representation - different artistic, social, personal or political intentions

Pg 93 : Fine art follows object based industrial capitalism - community separates from commodification

Pg 94 “the aesthetics of community art were … shaped by its inclusion of voices little heard in the elite art world”

Pg 95 : “Shared creative work enables people to learn from and about one another because they bring different identities, imaginations and desires to the art. Together, they face obstacles and share talents, make demands, become friends, develop skill, knowledge and confidence, explore their place in the group and discover new stories about themselves. Such things occur spontaneously in the process of co-creation.”

Pg 97 : creative equilibrium - empowerment of public art

Reception theory : not active communication and passive recipient in story telling but active audiences in how meaning is developed - situation, imagination and experience of encounters - creator and recreation of meaning-making

Pg 99 : negation of arts value : quality is defined through craft, originality, ambition, resonance and feeling - structured reflection and dialogue

Pg 101 : participatory art value is process based : experience, authorship, empowerment and humanity

Pg 104 : Ethical implications of co-creation - intentions could lead to change or harm

Pg 105 : Dignity and freedom - creates change but in the hands of the person experience not at command - self development through a shared process? Inequalities in power

Pg 106 : Non participation : therapy & manipulation

Degrees of tokenism : Informing, consultation, placation

Degrees of citizen power : partnership, delegation and citizen control

Pg 107 : Professional artists have the authority “to carry peoples doubts about what they can do, encouraging them to take risks, that from an experienced perspective, are not as great as they seem to the person concerned” - give confidence and support

Pg 111 : Project cycle : conception (development aims, objectives, etc;), contracting (negotiation and mutual obligations), co-creation (making & presenting) & completion (reflection, evaluation & future planning)

Pg 112 : Degrees of empowerment - individual, group and societal - personal change of gaining skills, confidence and knowledge but also strength and create community through shared skills, ideas, resources, develop empathy, trust of shared experience and common interests and identity”

Pg 113 : Individual empowerment can lead to recognition of groups and communities

Social transformation requires continual involvement in completion of a project

Pg 116 : Response of art - influenced by personality, culture, education, experience & circumstance - cannot guarantee individual outcomes but equal partners - ethics of change?

Pg 120 : Human right of culture and community : “give people choices about their own education, culture and development = empowerment”

Pg 132/3 : artistic theory and political rights - elitism of fine art and cultural rights to art as development of the self & individual’s capacity to play a full part in society - society creates a cultural hegemony of elites

Education is cultivating knowledge, capacity & understanding

Pg 135 : Emancipation from industrialisation through social mobility of art, culture & education - new skills, confidence and social networks (urban regeneration)

Pg 160 : Use or Ornament? Participation in arts activities brings social benefits; the experience of participation is unique & significant, relationship is more significant than form; social impacts of the arts are complex; social impacts are inevitable but not necessarily positive; participating in the arts brings risks and costs; arts projects provide cost-effective solutions; social impacts are demonstrable

Outcomes of participatory art : personal development, social cohesion, community empowerment, self-determination, local image, identity, imagination, vision, health & wellbeing

Pg 166 : current expectation with funding of work creates conceptual institutionalisation

Pg 169 : humanist idea of art’s place in everyday life - potential to secure cultural ecology losing radical & emancipatory potential

Pg 176 : cultural mediation comes from education work

Pg 185 : community art can help serve the society wanted without seeking permission

Pg 190 : Value of art & legitimacy of judgement : creates a more fluid, open situation

“More equitable access to arts’ sense-making potential & democratic settlement”

Pg 193 : “Funding for participatory arts is ultimately a matter of respect”

Self-evaluation is an artists professional responsibility

Pg 198 : “Participatory art … opens doors, empowers, challenges, delights and confronts. Because it values relationship and community. Because it is an open resource and a human right. Because the world is changing and it helps meet that change. Because it matters to so many.”


Further Research : Art of Invitation workshop, read Education for Sociology Engaged Art and Artificial Hells

Lottie Matthews © 2020
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