Curating Community? The Relational and Agonistic Value of Participatory Arts in Superdiverse Localities

Rooke, Alison. 2013. Curating Community? The Relational and Agonistic Value of Participatory Arts in Superdiverse Localities. Discussion Paper. AHRC. [Report]

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Abstract or Description

Executive Summary
The Curating Community Workshop developed out of an interest in urban regeneration, cultural policy and participatory art. It drew on the extensive experience in developing, delivering and evaluating community interventions that span participatory arts. The Workshop brought together artists, commissioners, researchers, educationalists and practitioners from community development and from a range of arts practices including community art, socially engaged art practice, participatory theatre and participatory arts. The participants critiqued the ideological presuppositions which often assist participatory art: that participation has straightforward positive social impacts on participants, that there is a clear cause and effect relationship between participation and participants behaviour, and that this social impact can be evidenced through evaluative ‘toolkits’. The Workshop discussion recognised the fact that that artists and arts organisations are often negotiating a complex urban context, creating spaces of dialogue and exchange through participatory social programmes in a context of increased socio-economic inequality and population churn. The Workshop invited participants to reflect on these matters, placing emphasis on the relational encounters that characterise this work, rather than its value as an instrument of urban policy. Focusing on art that occurs in urban regeneration and post-regeneration contexts – and the extent to which communities in super diverse neighbourhoods are constituted through such projects – Workshop participants considered the troubled relationship between the aesthetic dimensions of ‘participative’, ‘collaborative’ or ‘socially engaged’ art practice and the politics of community education, engagement and empowerment.
A second area of discussion was the governmentality of evaluation and its accompanying methodologies that can overlook, underestimate and distort the agonistic significance and community and ‘relational impact’ of participatory art interventions. Alternatives to the norms and forms of evaluation were explored. The Workshop explored the following questions: how are forms of ‘community’ instantiated and negated through participatory arts? How far can artists make apparent the conflicting positions of stakeholders in arts participation projects? What would be the consequences of this? What is the ‘community impact’ of participatory arts? What is its relational significance? Is antagonism and heterogeneity in participatory arts valuable in relation to civil society? How do affinities and connections between people and space emerge from collective arts participation and other organised social activities?

Item Type:

Report (Discussion Paper)


Participation, Socially engaged, Evaluation, Critical friends, Regeneration, Gentrification, Intention, Adaptation, Inequality

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Date Deposited:

25 Apr 2016 11:05

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:17


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