Yesterday I was lucky enough to be invited to give a talk about the relationship between participatory art and political change at the stunning Tagore Festival. I explored the medium of participatory Feasting and temporary space. I spoke in detail about the work of This is Rubbish, but contextualised that work by exploring the work of the Situationists, the Volkstheater Favoriten and Theodore Zeldin.
Historically, the Situationists preceded Zeldin and Volkstheater Favoriten. The international movement was interested in overcoming the grip of commercial and commodified art that had dominated the art world for so long. The situationists wanted to devaluate everything that was part of modern society, including upmarket art. More importantly they wanted to realise art, and make it a real time, participatory and immersive experience. They stated
“Against the spectacle, the realized situationists culture introduces total participation.”
The thinking of the Situationists informed the principles of Relational Aesthetics, which sets out to define art as a series of relational exchanges, and lies close to the theory of art as social practice. These theories are applications of art that I am very interested in, as a challenge to the dominant consumer and commodity culture, but also as a means of creating a platform to create social spaces that encourage sharing, creating and provide a mouthpiece for the public to reflect, create and articulate political opinions through. The key consideration here, is the creative frame that is used to set the theatre of the topic. In the case of This is Rubbish, the creative frame is the act of ceremonious and communal eating on the antithesis of opulence (a traditional feature of feasts), societies rubbish.
By facilitating a ceremonious space, traditionally connoted with excess, surplus and exclusivity, This is Rubbish Feast not on the excessive, but instead, on societies excess. The whole scene, food included, is created from societies rubbish, yet made to look exquisite. And in turn, participants are invited to feast on societies rubbish. They are then engage in a clearly defined political act against such overt and excessive waste. This is the feasting on artistic, participatory and political engagement.