The book offers a critical investigation of key debates in relation to participatory art, spanning the domains of applied and community theatre, immersive performance as well as the visual arts.
Rather than seeking a genre-based definition, it asks how artists, audiences and art practices approach the subject of participation beyond the predetermined options allocated to them. In doing so, it enquires into the ways that artworks participate in civic life. Participation is the utopian sweet dream that has turned into a nightmare in contemporary neoliberal societies. Yet can the participatory ideal be discarded or merely replaced with another term, just because it has become disemboweled into a tool of pacification? The gestures of participatory art insists that the concept of participation must be re-imagined and shifted onto other registers. It proposes the concept of the gesture as a rewarding way of theorizing participatory art.The study reads the gestural as a way to link discussions on participatory art to broader issues of citizenship and collective action. Moving from reflections on institutional critique and impact to concrete analyses of moments of unsolicited, delicate participation or refusal, the book examines a range of practices from India, Sudan, Guatemala and El Salvador, the Lebanon, the Netherlands and Germany.