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The gestures of participatory art$
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Sruti Bala

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781526100771

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526100771.001.0001

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On the inconvenient means and ends of participation

On the inconvenient means and ends of participation

(p.51) 2 On the inconvenient means and ends of participation
The gestures of participatory art

Sruti Bala

Manchester University Press

Chapter II addresses the relationship between participatory art and the concept of ‘impact’. It investigates the assumptions around impact, as well as the methodological challenges of thinking the impact of a work of art. Using the 2012 Spanish language production Afuera: lesbianas en escena (Outside: Lesbians on Stage) by the theatre collective Teatro Siluetas from Guatemala and El Salvador as a point of departure, the chapter reflects on the assessment of impact in relation to the question of participation. It critically engages with the field of evidence-led impact studies in the arts. It situates the debate on the usefulness or non-utility of participatory art in relation to social science scholarship pertaining to the ascendancy of ‘participation’ in the context of international development. It suggests that it is worthwhile extending the kinds of activities considered as relevant to a participatory aesthetic, to thus not only analyse performances as distinct works, but to place them in a longer-term aesthetic continuum with workshops, rehearsals, after-talks, meetings with the artists, and other para-theatrical events. The chapter grapples with the question of how to discuss impact in relation to participatory art without it being mortgaged into a matter of quantifiable impact alone.

Keywords:   impact assessment, usefulness, participation in international development, para-theatrical, aggregation, institutional impact, gradations of participation

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