The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting article on the increasing trend of participatory art. Participatory art, which the Monitor calls “crowdsourcing,” creates a new era of inclusiveness for the art world: “It . . . can inspire creativity in people who might never dabble in art. If we open the public to the nature of the creative process and allow them opportunities to experience it, a great humanistic service will have been done.” By definition, participatory art is an approach to making art in which the audience is engaged directly in the creative process, thereby allowing them to become co-creators of the work. Participatory art began in the first half of the 20th century, with the performative and often political projects of the Dada artists, but reached its peak in the 1960s with artists such as Alan Kaprow, who coined the term “Happenings,” and Nam June Paik and Yoko Ono, who were part of the Fluxus network, which embraced performance, mail art, sound art and video.
One of the local art galleries in Athens, Athica, is currently hosting an exhibition concerning the increasing communication between artist and viewer that creates such art titled “Taking Part.” The exhibition includes works by six artists who employ a range of approaches to incorporate input from the public. One interesting piece in the exhibit is Michael Lease’s “Send Me the Pillow That You Dream On,” which involves more than 40 participants who were asked to send the artist four images: a class picture between the ages of 15 and 17, a current picture, a picture of their pillow and a view out a window in their home. The resulting images serve as portraits of individuals—their past and present appearance, their intimate lives, and their environment. The photographs’ accessibility instantly creates a bond between viewer and art, with the viewer easily placing him/herself within the project as a participant by virtue of recognition. Lease’s interest in shared experience and the vernacular reveals the artist’s fascination with the day-to-day lives of others but, more important, stems from his desire to orchestrate a communal experience. The participants in this project are all friends, family and acquaintances of the artist; thus, this collective portrait also serves as a view into his life.