“Participatory art is not better than education, social activism or professional art, but it is different, because, in preventing us from resting on our existing models, it demands that we think, feel, talk and share new ways with other people”
– Francois Matarasso, A Restless Art, 2019
Sitting between my two practices of theatre making with professionals and making with non-professionals is a space where communities, audiences, and participants are invited into the creation of the production itself. It is a careful facilitation, varying from project to project, of promoting dialogue between artists and communities. For a long time the artists have spoken, and now it is time to listen.
Since 2019 I have been growing my practice into a fusion of performance and engagement that can allow for non-professional artists to be invited into the performance in small ways; such as in Satellites where audiences select a stone at the start of the performance and end by helping Natalie build a memorial, or building routes into audience involvement for Forelska at Seanse, Norway. In 2020, I began an MA in Art and Social Practice at the University of Highlands and Islands to dig deeper into ways we can use socially engaged art to inspire socially engaged theatre. The result is an exciting, refreshing theatre event that feels more visceral and alive.
I see huge benefits in placing community in the art. It allows communities to have a space for their voice, to build connections and trust between people involved – both artist and audience member – and demonstrate how much we value audiences.
Incubation and recollect begin the process of embracing the principle of putting community in the art more fully, offering space for participant voices to inspire the creation of the performance with their own ideas. The stories Dundonians tell will become the stories shared in a performance in recollect, and in Incubation the audience will use the story told to tell their own through making a small artwork and add it to the touring archive they are within.
I am very excited by this work, and I am excited to talk to more producers, programmers and makers about the possibility of this work. So please get in touch.
Header Photo: Dave Hill
GIF: Dave Hill
Incubation Image: Sean McGonigal