Political Interventions and Relational Aesthetics

A man stands in front of an advancing column of military tanks after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.1 As the tanks move toward him, he waves two plastic shopping bags to ward them off. He climbs on top of one of the tanks and talks to the driver. The tanks turn off their engines and the man climbs down. But they start the engines again, so he resumes his protest, moving this way and that, blocking the might of the State with his shopping bags. He becomes an international symbol of courage against tyranny.

Deborah Kelly has worked across a range of media since 1983. Working solo and in collaboration, she uses the internet and social networking to generate political protest, with people signing up to perform actions around the nation and sometimes the globe. Tank Man Tango (2009) was performed in twenty cities and towns across the world as a memorial to the Tiananmen Square protests in China.

Working with the choreographer Jane McKernan, Kelly created Tank Man Tango and posted the video of performance artist Teik Kim Pok dancing the steps onto You Tube. The footage included a short narration which ended by inciting people to ‘forget to forget’ the original protest and do the tango on 4 June 2009.2 There are numerous versions of the dance now available on the internet with dance instructions in various languages.

Kelly also works with the art collective boat-people.org who have systematically created public performance events and installations to bring attention to the repressive policies of successive Australian governments concerning immigration.3 In 2010, in response to a federal election campaign, boat-people.org invited people to join a public protest by wrapping their heads and faces in replicas of the Australian flag to represent the ways in which people are blinded by nationalism. People were asked to congregate alone or in pairs and groups and to take photographs and videos and send them to an email address. The anonymous participation of a distant audience was overwhelming as people sent in images of themselves congregating in parks, civic centres and on the beach. All were muffled by the tyranny of nationalism which was writing people into a history with which they did not relate. This protest went quietly viral as people took up the protest in their own ways.

These initiatives can be likened to flash mobs but they have a political intent. They use the same means of production and distribution but they ask people to take a stand on specific issues. The events are a clear demonstration that Australians are engaged, but disillusioned, with democracy and its consensus politics, which speak to a generic public fashioned from polls and over-determined by shock-Jock media cowboys. Kelly does not know all the people who contribute to her events, and along with boat-people.org, she creates possible scenarios for political protest. The success of Tank Man Tango throughout Europe, North America and Asia is a testament to a methodology that provides a platform but does not cajole the participant.

Ash Keating has often been described as an environmental artist because one of the signatures of his practice is to work with large quantities of industrial waste material to raise people’s awareness of the ecological consequences of ubiquitous consumption. Activate 2750 (2009) was one of Keating’s largest participatory interventions. Part of a C3West Project in Western Sydney, which was established to broker closer relationships between artists and business, Activate was a collaboration between Keating, the waste management company SITA Environmental Solutions and local artists and performers.4 Ten tonnes of clean, reusable resources were salvaged from the local Davis Road Transfer Station over a two-week period and transported to the Penrith City Civic Precinct in the centre of town.5 This pile was then re-sorted and carefully re-constructed. Two rings of fencing were installed around the installation. A safety fence and a containment fence which Keating says, ‘created a kind of human rat-run that was integrated into the evening performances. The fencing also reinforced the atmosphere of the installation as a kind of apocalyptic zoological habitat’.6 The residency in Penrith aimed to raise people’s awareness about the amount of rubbish that goes into landfill each year, by activating processions of ‘waste creatures’ in the streets and shopping centres, including performances of The Uprising by a troupe of local Krump dancers.7 The Westfield Processions entailed each participant pushing abandoned supermarket shopping trolleys full of reconstituted waste, with a soundtrack composed by Vincent O’Connor which incorporated the noise of the compacting machines used at the Davis Road site. They appeared as alien presences in a macabre ritual on escalators, in atriums, in shopping malls and along the streets, encountering shoppers, motorists and passers by. The University of Western Sydney contributed by conducting interviews with local residents to garner their response to the events.


Relational Aesthetics

Both Kelly and Keating could be considered as artists engaging with relational aesthetics, but neither are comfortable with this description. Although a new generation of artists is talking about intervention and engaging with participatory practice, the tag ‘relational aesthetics’ is queried, primarily because the concept has been thoroughly critiqued, and Australian artists read. The work of Nicolas Bourriaud is central to this discourse. His book Relational Aesthetics has become a textbook for a generation disillusioned with postmodern theory.8 Bourriaud’s artist protagonists are Félix González-Torres, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Vanessa Beecroft, Santiago Sierra, Philippe Parreno, Noritoshi Hirakawa and Pierre Huyghe, among others. These artists create events in time and space that tangibly impact on the audience. Some involve participants in distant sites and/or create situations for the viewer to engage with. This groundswell of event-based art has its genesis in earlier participatory and ephemeral forms. But Bourriaud insists that theoretical discourse since the 1960s has failed to give due emphasis to the material form of process-related or behavioural works.9

Several theorists and art historians have argued that this is untrue. Most vocal is Amelia Jones who says that there has been a faddish embrace of relational aesthetics over the last few years that is ‘disingenuous’ and ‘unhelpful as a critical formulation’.10 This is primarily because it ignores the history of participatory art and the legacy of dematerialisation which has been fundamental in experimental art for decades. Hal Foster is equally scathing, calling it quasi-anthropological art and saying that the artist is consumed by what he calls ‘ethnographer-envy’.11 His main concern is that such work tends to find political truth in an alterity that is projected onto communities by artists.12 This tells us more about ‘the artist’ than the community s/he parachutes into.

Claire Bishop presents a thorough critique in her history of participatory art, Artificial Hells (2012).13 She provides a useful description of what she calls ‘the expanded field of relational practices’, which includes: ‘socially engaged art, community-based art, experimental communities, dialogic art, littoral art, participatory, interventionist, research-based, or collaborative art’.14 She is both positive and negative in her assessment of such work, but she fears that in the West relational and/or participatory art is compromised by the agendas of neo-liberal governments which campaign for social inclusion, the experience economy, creative industries and social networking.15

Grant Kester established the term dialogical aesthetics to describe recent participatory practices that create dialogue amongst people. He is a great supporter of activist and participatory art, but he is also critical of Bourriaud’s idea of social interaction, claiming that it ‘collapses all activist art into the condition of 1930s socialist realism’ and ‘does not account for the complexity and diversity of socially engaged art practice over the last several decades’.16

Bourriaud may not acknowledge the experimental and socio-political legacy of contemporary art, but it is apparent that the utopianism of relational aesthetics has aspects in common with earlier analyses of the avant-garde. Most notable is the work of Renato Poggioli who traces the political inflection of the modernist avant-gardes in art and literature.17 It is also evident that relational aesthetics is a performative theory. Stewart Martin presents a critique of relational aesthetics and argues that it is a ‘new theory of art’s theatricality, affirming and radicalizing its consequence’.18 However, relational aesthetics ignores the contribution of the art and theory of the recent past. Terms such as ‘utopianism’ and ‘the avant-garde’, once banished by postmodern criticism, are returning without critical reflection. Foster says, ‘This partial recovery of the utopian demand is unexpected: not so long ago this was the most despised aspect of the modern(ist) project, condemned as totalitarian gulag on the Right and capitalist tabula rasa on the Left’.19

Both Kester and Bishop have pointed out the legacy of activist art, community art and art and working life programs which were the result of lobbies by artists to make art more meaningful within society in the 1960s and 1970s.20 The women’s art movements in the Western world also pursued collective projects, some of which elevated the value of women’s traditional domestic crafts to the level of high art. These projects were informed by a Marxist and/or feminist agenda but were subsequently criticised for not paying enough attention to the semiotics of representation and foregrounding essentialist identity politics.21 The point for relational aesthetics is that other utopian movements have gone before and they have been critiqued for failing to change the role of the artist in society.22

The problem now is that mainstream museums want to co-opt these kinds of practice so as to align their programs with government policy. Many museums are looking for community outreach strategies to improve their social standing and attract more funding. Elizabeth Ann Macgregor’s opening essay for the C3West Projects, which presented Ash Keating’s Activate 2750, makes it quite clear that the intent is to establish closer ties between the arts, business and community with the view to developing audiences and providing jobs for artists.23 She says: ‘artists are an under-utilised resource that can be mobilised to help to solve many problems faced by diverse sectors of society’.24 This is a clear example of how government and cultural policy are mediating the arts through funding initiatives that have community outreach.

In the art world, the exchanges between art historians Claire Bishop and Grant Kester have been important in establishing positions on the relational. Bishop is concerned that artistic criteria are being over-shadowed by ethical concerns, whereby the artists’ good intentions to create events and spaces that are inclusive and empowering for others are given priority by critics, whilst there is little attention to the analysis of form and content. However, she also says: ‘socially collaborative work arguably forms what avant-garde we have today’.25 Kester has attacked her claim for a new avant-garde and argues that her definition of socially engaged practice is on one hand too broad and on the other too constrained to events in the art world.26 Kester’s position is more far-reaching than Bourriaud’s in that it extends the parameters of the art world. He insists that participatory practices have a long history in art and in activist politics and he has written several books that demonstrate a global engagement in activist actions.27

What is clear from these debates is that the social position of art is, once again, a major concern. However, when the mainstream starts to acclaim would-be socially engaged art—as witnessed across the international biennales over the last few decades—it is evident that a complex reification is also happening.28 Neo-liberalism campaigns for less government intervention and pushes the responsibility for social problems back onto communities and individuals. As such, it is invested in micro-communities solving problems rather than big government. This is associated with the erosion of the welfare state. Clare Bishop is right to highlight the problems for artists embracing the relational model because it is easily co-opted for conciliatory ends and, as she demonstrates, it mitigates against experimentalism.


Relational, Dialogical, Participatory

Australian artist, Stuart Ringholt coordinates participatory events which have gained international acclaim due to the interest in relational and dialogical practices. Some of these events are marketed as therapy-type workshops where people are able to release anger and or laughter. The Anger Workshops (2008-2012) are offered to people as private sessions led by the artist. They include two phases. The release of anger through shouting, swearing and physical movement, accompanied by loud techno-music, is followed by a ‘love’ phase where participants apologise to each other and then embrace to the calming sounds of Mozart.29 Other participatory works involve the artist presenting artist’s talks for a select group of naturists. At these events the gallery is closed for the session and both the artist and his participants/spectators are in the nude. At the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA, Hobart, Tasmania), Ringholt and his participants engaged with sculptural works, including Wim Delvoye’s controversial Cloaca, a machine that simulates the gastro-intestinal workings of the human body to produce faeces-like eliminations.30

Ringholt is interested in New Age therapies and Eastern philosophy.31 He is not trained as a psychologist but he did experience drug-induced schizophrenia as a young man and has written a compelling account of how he used art as a therapy to assist in his own healing.32 Participants in the artist’s workshops are made aware of the precise structure of the events and each signs a consent form which includes a section on documentation. Those who do not want to be photographed or videotaped are edited out of the documentation.

Thai artist, Rirkrit Tiravanija, is highly acclaimed in the relational aesthetics school. His signature works are kitchens and cafes in galleries, art spaces and museums that provide simple meals for guests to share. These events create situations of dialogical exchange where people have a convivial meal together and talk, creating what Bourriaud calls micro communities.33 However these are often art world people talking together, which limits any intervention. In fact one could argue that such convivial events are merely celebrations within an already gated community.

Australian artist, Anne Graham has been creating mobile kitchens since 1992. Her food is often made for street people and the homeless who shelter in available public spaces in cities. The first of these projects was the interactive Installation for Walla Mulla Park (1992) where the artist set up a series of modular tent-like structures under a railway bridge.34 Each night, an evening meal was served outside and films were projected on the wall opposite the tent. Sue Best notes that the space welcomed everyone and allowed ‘all kinds of contradictory spaces to collide: public and private, dangerous and safe, active performance space and passive receptive viewing space, high culture and extreme poverty, the everyday and the exotic’.35 She also suggests that this environment and others conceived by Graham are a reclaiming of feminised space, places where people gather to be nurtured.36 The Hide, Hopetoun Bridge, Maribyrnong River (1998) was a similar project which provided a retreat for people including safe shelter, meals and a screening area.37

Graham has also done a series of work about the plight of lowly paid workers under capitalism, by taking on the same kind of work and making it in public. She sews garments on trains for hour upon hour, quietly producing cheap garments for sale in chain stores (SWEAT, 1994). The Silk Plaza at the Echigo-Tsumari Triennale in 2000 saw her engage with women from the Tokamachi prefecture, an economically depressed region in Japan. Here Graham set up a kitchen so that the women who collected wild vegetables to cook their traditional recipes could serve dinner to each other and to their visitors. Everyone was encouraged to exchange stories about local food and thus set up a cultural memory of place. Graham notes that: ‘we made the place come alive with histories of meals taken. We also invented new recipes and creatively documented food’.38 The project is ongoing.

Lyndal Jones has an established practice as a performance artist who has consistently utilised projections and video. Although these works often involved collaborators, more recently she has been producing participatory events.

The Avoca Project (2005-2015) in rural Victoria is planned as a ten-year site-specific project on art, place and climate change. It brings together artists, scientists, activists and the local community. Events are situated in and around Watford House, which was imported from Germany in 1850. Jones says the house itself is an immigrant, ‘its walls revealing stories of wealth and a European glamour now faded by the harshness of the climate and the decreasing services that are the result of globalisation and climate extremes in rural Australia’.39 The house becomes a site for artworks which are generated by visiting artists and include the local community. The installations, events and symposia are concerned with water and power usage, and resilience to climate change in a small rural town. The house is both a performative and a pedagogical site and it is slowly becoming an example of self-sufficiency due to the engagement of teams of volunteers and tradespeople.

Rehearsing Catastrophe: The Ark in Avoca (10 December, 2010) is one of the biggest collaborative events to be coordinated by Jones and a team of volunteers and contributing artists. On a dark night the house was turned into a projection screen inside and out and sounds of inclement weather and animal noises were amplified. From the outside, the house looked like a huge boat. One hundred and forty local residents participated, lining up in groups and pairs to enter The Ark via a gangplank. A mistress of ceremonies called for types of animals and the residents filed in with a spectacular array of costumes made by Friends of Avoca.

Two years later Jones reconfigured the event as Rehearsing Catastrophe: The Ark in Sydney at the18th Biennale of Sydney (2012). This Ark was on Cockatoo Island, a derelict industrial site complete with old warehouse buildings and machine rooms all crowded together. It is a tough site in which to present art. Jones constructed the bow of The Ark so that it protruded out of one of the warehouses. There was no access to the boat. Instead there was a small office with documentation and a series of rehearsals that people were encouraged to attend. They were all preparing for their escape should a catastrophe happen. A notice told people when the rehearsals would take place each day and at the designated time visitors would attend dressed in black coats with animal masks.

In the Avoca version, people entered The Ark, but in Sydney people just waited patiently and nothing happened. This aspect of the work compelled Jones. For her it showed how people engage with an idea, in this case the salvation of a people in the face of the devastation of the planet. She said it was often the same people who came, people she did not know and people who just heard about the idea.40 Documenting The Ark people in Sydney was a hit-and-miss affair. People sent images they took themselves and Jones took photographs when she could. There is a sense of united humanity in this project, one that took on a life of its own as people made their costumes and came to stand in line, knowing they would not get onto The Ark but also knowing that they were there to represent the possibility of saving humanity from destruction (at least symbolically). The project demonstrates how a propositional artwork can generate a desire that performs itself.

Berlin-based Australian artist Alex Martinis Roe, has been preoccupied with thinking through the documentation of an event, often privileging it over the performance or activity itself. The desire here is to create process-driven works that are not spectacles. Her most recent performance installation The Practice of Doing (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, 2012-13) is an installation of documentation which represents a long-term dialogue she has been having with the Milan Women’s Bookstore Collective.41

The installation is in several parts. A Gift of Acknowledgement includes members of the Milan Collective reading passages from one of their books in Italian.42 This audio-script resonates throughout the gallery and is synchronised with a looped text projected onto the wall. Copies of the Italian and English translation of the book are displayed in a glass case on the wall adjacent to the video projection. The excerpts from the text chosen for the installation relate to the Collective’s concept of affidamento, or ‘entrustment’, which describes a relationship between women whereby each entrusts her subjectivity in the public sphere to the other.43 They propose several examples of this, including the type of mentorship that they encounter in historical records. These stretch from the salons of eighteenth-century France to the modernist period. Martinis Roe extracts several of these for the audio-visual installation and then develops this idea in a participatory audio performance that the gallery visitor encounters.

The centrepiece of The Practice of Doing is a circle of chairs positioned on a round carpet. Each chair has a set of headphones. Visitors sit in the chairs and listen to a series of stories told by different men and women about reciprocal relationships between famous women. The installation/event attempts to provide a living example of the ‘entrustment’ between women by inviting anonymous speakers to tell stories of such relations. Martinis Roe does not name the speakers or reveal her sources but it appears as if some of the stories are historical, and perhaps readings from the Milan Collective, whilst others are contemporary and, at least some of them are responses to an invitation or instruction, for example when the curator Natalie King speaks about the collaboration between artists Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser. In this installation, the performance is enacted through the voice of others. This is underlined in the pre-event publicity which uses an image from one of my own early participatory performances. The image from Discourse (Women’s Art Movement, Adelaide, 1979) has been appropriated and renamed The Practice of Doing, but the image is obviously archival. In this instance there is a kind of riddle presented to the viewer. Originally planned for the catalogue, the image circulated in the public sphere as the signature image for the exhibition NEW13. In this way Martinis Roe and I create an ‘entrustment’: she harnesses a little known work from the history of experimental art and feminism in Australia and builds it into a relationship with her current work. The feminist experimentalism of the past—in this case a participatory performance which embraced small group processes—is reclaimed in the present through a careful manipulation of documents. This is a complex relational practice that deconstructs itself as it unfolds. It is acutely aware of the mythologies of the artist and the feminist. This is not the practice of the artist as ethnographer. Martinis Roe does not seek to colonise the Other but consciously interrogates the ‘practice of doing’ and then enables multifarious voices across histories and generations.

The participatory and interventionist modes evident in the works considered in this article clearly demonstrate a social turn in recent art, but this has its genesis in earlier forms of activist and community art practice. Although some of this is associated with relational and dialogical aesthetics, artists do not necessarily embrace these terms. In fact most of the artists interviewed for this essay are cautious about such categorisation.

The social turn is encouraging if it can maintain a critical edge. But socially engaged art in the twenty-first century inadvertently encounters co-optation into wider political agendas as neo-liberal democracies seek to demonstrate policies of social inclusion in societies saturated by alienation and discontent. In short, art can become a kind of panacea in the service of global capital as its government agents seek to calm social unrest and celebrate localised cultural difference. Thus the relational and the dialogical have the potential to move art into the realm of sociology and therapy. The issue for the artist is whether or not they want to be co-opted into such neo-liberalist ideology and, if not, what strategies can be put in place to maintain radical critique.


Deborah Kelly, Documentation of Tank Man Tango, a Tiananmen Memorial, in Sydney, 4 June 2009. Photograph William Yang.

Ash Keating, Westfield Procession, 2009. C-type photograph, 100 x 66cm. Edition of 5. Photograph Alex Kershaw. © Ash Keating. 

Stuart Ringholt, Preceded by a tour of the show by artist Stuart Ringholt, 5-7pm. (The artist will be naked. Those who wish to join the tour must also be naked. Adults only), 2012. Photograph Nick McGrath. Courtesy the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane. 

Lyndal Jones, Rehearsing Catastrophe: The Ark in Sydney, March 2012. Photograph Lyndal Jones. 


1. The massacre took place on 4 June and the tanks rolled in the following day when the protest of the lone man occurred (5 June 1989). All images taken by Western journalists of the event were suppressed on Google.

2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQW8m8MctsU, accessed 6 March 2013.

3. See http://www.weaustralians.org/artists/boat-people-org/, accessed 7 April 2013. The group includes Safdar Ahmed, Zehra Ahmed, Stephanie Carrick, Dave Gravina, Katie Hepworth, Jiann Hughes, Deborah Kelly, Enda Murray, Pip Shea, Sumugan Sivanesan and sometimes Jamil Yamani.

4. C3West is an initiative of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, which was established in 2006. Activate 2750 was presented in partnership with Penrith Performing and Visual Arts, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Campbelltown Arts Centre and the University of Western Sydney. The project was supported by ArtsNSW and the Australia Council, the Australian Government’s arts funding and advisory body, through its Community Partnership Section. See MCA Learning Resource: C3West: Contemporary Art Community Commerce, pdf available on-line at: http://www.mca.com.au/media/uploads/files/C3west_Learning_Resource.pdf, accessed 17 March 2013.

5. The numerals in Keating’s title refer to Penrith’s postcode, 2750.

6. Ash Keating, ‘Activate 2750’ in MCA Learning Resource: C3West: Contemporary Art Community Commerce, op. cit. p.27.

7. The dancers were: Darrio Phillips aka Manifest, Kon aka J. Manifest, Yasim aka J. Krucial and Omar aka Scrappy, ibid.

8. See Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics, trans. Simon Pleasance, Fronza Woods with Mathieu Copeland, Les Presses du Réel, Paris, 2002 (first published in French 1998).

9. Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics, ibid., p.7.

10. Amelia Jones, ‘The Now and the Has Been: Paradoxes of Live Art in History’, in Amelia Jones and Adrian Heathfield (eds), Perform, Repeat, Record: Live Art in History, Intellect and The University of Chicago Press, Bristol, UK/Chicago, USA, 2012, p.20.

11. Hal Foster, ‘The Artist as Ethnographer?’, in The Return of the Real: The Avant-Garde at the End of the Century, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. and London, England, 1996, p.183. See also his more vitriolic attack ‘Arty Party’, London Review of Books 25, 4 December 2003, pp.21-22.

12. Hal Foster, ‘The Artist as Ethnographer’, op. cit., p.190. Also see Foster, ‘An Archival Impulse’, October 110, Fall 2004, pp.3-22.

13. Claire Bishop, Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship, Verso, London, 2012.

14. Claire Bishop, ‘The Social Turn: Collaboration and its Discontents’ in Peter Gorschlüter (ed.), The Fifth Floor: Ideas Taking Space, Liverpool University Press, 2009, p.22. This essay was first published in Artforum, February 2006, and generated a response from Kester and a further response from Bishop. All three essays are reproduced in The Fifth Floor.

15. Claire Bishop, ‘Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics’, October, 110, Fall 2004, p.52.

16. Grant H. Kester, The One and the Many: Contemporary Collaborative Art in a Global Context, Duke University Press, Durham and London, 2011, p.31. Kester is critical of Bishop’s emphases, see Grant H. Kester, ‘Dialogical Aesthetics’ in Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 2004, pp.82-123.

17. Renato Poggioli, The Theory of the Avant-Garde, trans. Gerald Fitzgerald, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge Mass./London, England, 1968.

18. Stewart Martin, ‘Critique of Relational Aesthetics’, Third Text, 21:4, p.383.

19. Hal Foster, ‘An Archival Impulse’, op. cit., p.22.

20. Claire Bishop presents an analysis of these groups, see ‘Incidental People: APG and Community Arts’, in Artificial Hells, op. cit., pp.163-192. Grant Kester, Conversation Pieces, op. cit., pp.91-97 and 114-116.

21. Groups include The Artist Placement Group (APG, UK), Art and Working Life (Australia) and Political Art Documentation and Distribution (PADD, New York), to name a few. See Claire Bishop, ‘Incidental People: APG and Community Arts’, op. cit., pp.163-192. For earlier accounts see Su Braden, Artists and People, Routledge Kegan Paul, London, 1978, The Australia Council, Communicating Arts: Australian Artists and the Community, McCulloch, Victoria, 1982, and Lucy R. Lippard, Get the Message: A Decade of Art for Social Change, Dutton, New York, 1984. For a critique of essentialism see Judith Barry and Sandy Flitterman, ‘Textual Strategies: The Politics of Art Making’, Screen, Vol.21, No.2, 1980, pp.35-48.

22. For a lucid analysis of left wing thinking see Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Ernst Bloch, Bertolt Brecht and Georg Lukács, with afterword by Fredric Jameson, Aesthetics and Politics, Verso, London and New York, 2007 (first published by New Left Books, 1977).

23. Elizabeth Ann Macgregor, ‘A Tale of Two Cultures’, MCA Learning Resource: C3West: Contemporary Art Community Commerce, op. cit., pp.3-4.

24. Macgregor cites the Prime Minister’s 2020 Summit in April 2008 as influential in the museum’s attempts to create greater outreach for the arts, ‘A Tale of Two Cultures’, ibid., p.3.

25. Claire Bishop, ‘The Social Turn: Collaboration and its Discontents’, op. cit., p.22.

26. Grant Kester, ‘The Social Turn: Another Turn’, in Peter Gorschlüter (ed.), The Fifth Floor, op. cit., p.28. Although Claire Bishop has been criticised for not supporting relational aesthetics, what she brings to the dialogue is the work of Jacques Rancière and his interpretation of the aesthetic. Rancière has resonated with artists and art historians as he re-thinks the divisions between modernism and postmodernism and those between art and politics. See Jacques Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible, trans. Gabriel Rockhill, Continuum, London and New York, 2004 (first published in French by La Fabrique-Éditions 2000).

27. See especially, Grant H. Kester, Conversation Pieces, op. cit., 2004.

28. See especially, Lars Bang Larsen, ‘The Art Museum as the Domain of the Self’, in Peter Gorschlüter (ed.), The Fifth Floor, op. cit., pp.46-53.

29. At the time of writing, the most recent Anger Workshops were held at dOCUMENTA (13) Kassel, Germany, 2012.

30. The title of the work is Preceded by a tour of the show by artist Stuart Ringholt, 4-5pm. (The artist will be naked. Those who wish to join the tour must also be naked. Adults Only), MONA, 2011.

31. Conversation with the artist, 24 January 2013.

32. Stuart Ringholt, Hashish Psychosis: What it is Like to be Mentally Ill and Recover, Self Published, BPA Print Group, West Preston, 2006.

33. When Tony Elwood took up the directorship of the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, one of his first acquisitions was a Rirkrit Tiravanija event in which four unsuspecting gallery goers are presented with a Thai meal each day. For details see http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/art-and-design/new-ngv-head-usher...

34. This was part of a series of events programmed by Artspace titled Working in Public curated by John Barrett-Lennard.

35. Sue Best, ‘Deconstructing Space: Anne Graham’s Installation for Walla Mulla Park and Jeff Gibson’s Screwballs’, Transition 42, 1993, p.37.

36. Sue Best, ‘Deconstructing Space’, ibid., p.39.

37. Part of The Bridge: Construction in Process VI, 1998.

38. Anne Graham as quoted in Bruce Barber and Jeff Dayton-Johnson, ‘Marking the Limit: Re-Framing a Micro-Economy for the Arts’, Parachute, 106, April-June 2002, p.34. Barber invented the term ‘littoral art’, see Don Simmons, ‘Littoral Practice: An Interview with Bruce Barber’, Image and Text, 2005, available at www.imageandtext.org.nz/pdfs/Bruce_Barber_Interview.pdf, accessed 20 March 2013.

39. Lyndal Jones, The Avoca Project: Art, Place, Climate Change, at http://www.avocaproject.org/

40. Lyndal Jones in conversation with the author, 23 October 2012.

41. For an analysis of the Milan Collective see Linda Zerilli, Feminism and the Abyss of Freedom, Chicago University Press, Chicago, 2005, pp.92-123.

42. The book is titled Non credere di avere dei diritti: La generazione della libertà femminile nell’idea e nelle vicende di un gruppo di donne. The title is taken from a work by poet Adrienne Rich which translates as: ‘Don’t think you have any rights: the engendering of female freedom in the thoughts and vicissitudes of a women’s group’. The book was written collectively in 1987 and published in English as Sexual Difference: A Theory of Social-Symbolic Practice, trans. Patricia Cicogna and Teresa de Lauretis, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1990.

43. See Maeve Connolly, ‘Alex Martinis Roe: A Speculative Gathering’, NEW13, (ex. cat.), Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, 2013, p.16. Thanks also to Alex Martinis Roe who notes that ‘this entrustment is between two women who have disparate relationships to power, where one has knowledge or abilities that the other desires and their alliance creates a new relation in the social order’. She is paraphrasing from Teresa de Lauretis, ‘The Practice of Sexual Difference and Feminist Thought in Italy: An Introductory Essay’ in Sexual Difference, op. cit., p.8. Email correspondence with the author, 25 April 2013.



Anne Marsh is Professor of Art History and Theory at Monash University. This article draws from the final chapter of her most recent book Performance Ritual Document to be launched by Macmillan in early 2014.