Negotiating contradiction: work, redundancy and participatory art

Gradon Diprose

Within participatory geography and relational aesthetic art literature there have been calls to focus on how participation is framed, who is included and excluded, the types of relations involved and the effects of such practices. Linked to these concerns, questions have also been raised around how participants are framed and understood in participatory projects. For instance, as self‐determining and knowing subjects who become politically affirmed through participation, or as subjects caught up in complex processes of becoming. In this article I show how the participatory art project ‘Productive Bodies’ in Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand, enabled participants to articulate the complex contradictions surrounding waged work, redundancy and unemployment. I suggest that participatory art projects can be a useful way for subjects to explore these complex processes of becoming. Useful because in this case, the project enabled participants to both acknowledge dominant disciplining discourses around waged work, while also creating space to imagine and enact alternatives to more dominant and limiting discourses. I argue that participatory art projects like Productive Bodies can help subjects move away from cognitive understandings of social change and political demands because the process understands subjects as always‐already affected by wider societal discourses. Such an understanding recognises the complexity of subjectivities whereby subjects are both complicit in perpetuating and subjecting themselves to more dominant discourses, but also often desirous of change. Participatory art projects like Productive Bodies can enable subjects to articulate these complexities, while also catching glimpses of other selves and other societal relations through affectual‐embodied encounters.

Suggested citation

Diprose, G. 2015. "Negotiating contradiction: work, redundancy and participatory art". Area, 47(3): 246-253.