Last week, Corinne Segal interviewed Claire Bishop, author of Artificial Hells, for the Boston Review. In the course of their conversation, Bishop speaks to the lack of a critical language to describe “participatory art” as it is currently manifested here and in the UK, a void she attempted to fill with her book:
Social practice’s identification with ethics and politics should lead us to ask what’s prompting its allergy to the aesthetic. I’ve already mentioned the art market as a system with which many artists do not identify; this represents a bigger problem, which is a widespread dissatisfaction with free market capitalism and the inequality and disempowerment it produces. I think social practice also says something about our relationship to technology. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that social practice arises simultaneously with the digital revolution. Face-to-face relationships are becoming important as we spend more and more time online.
Bishop also discusses her larger aim “to question the use of political art as a substitute for political engagement” and emphasizes the relationship between media attention and political impact– as, she notes, can be seen in the case of Pussy Riot.
“Ideally,” she says, “we should always read art dually, in relation to its artistic context and its political context…This isn’t relativism, but a call for historical specificity.”
Visit the Boston Review to read the article in full.