Introduction
in The gestures of participatory art
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This chapter undertakes an examination of participatory practices in contemporary theatre, performance and the visual arts, setting these against the broader social and political horizons of civic participation. It is concerned with the ways in which artistic or cultural thought-practices participate in the social bases they emerge from or respond to, in the unorthodox reformulation of participation. The chapter discusses three main domains of participatory art: applied or community-based performance, immersive performance and contemporary visual art. The legacy of participation in the visual arts reveals a kind of entanglement between artistic and social-political spheres. The chapter argues that participatory practices are best appreciated in the register of the gestural. It suggests that the concept of gesture might be a rewarding way of theorizing participatory practices at the crossroads of the visual and performing arts. Finally, the chapter also presents an outline of this book.

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