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Jared Pappas-Kelley

Chapter three examines the notion of solvent form in more detail, in which art—while attempting to make secure or fixed—simultaneously undoes and destroys through its inception. This is examined through narratives such as Sarah Winchester obsessively building the Winchester Mansion in San Jose, California, or similarly as an object that Scheherazade attempts to hew with her stories in One Thousand and One Nights—seen here as a method for forestalling a verdict and extending her moments against foreclosure, maintaining their permeability. Within this context, works such as Jeremy Blake’s Winchester Trilogy, Urs Fischer’s untitled melting wax sculptures from the Venice Biennale, Louise Bourgeois’s Couple II, examples from contemporary art, and ideas from Agnes Martin’s writings are applied in order to understand these solvent operations within art.

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Solvent form

Art and destruction

Jared Pappas-Kelley

Solvent form examines the destruction of art—through objects that have been destroyed (lost in fires, floods, vandalism, or similarly those artists that actively court or represent this destruction, such as Gustav Metzger), but also as a process within art that the object courts through form. In this manner, Solvent form looks to events such as the Momart warehouse fire in 2004 as well as the actions of art thief Stéphane Breitwieser in which the stolen work was destroyed. Against this overlay, a tendency is mapped whereby individuals attempt to conceptually gather these destroyed or lost objects, to somehow recoup in their absence. From this vantage, Solvent form—hinging on the dual meaning in the words solvent and solvency—proposes an idea of art as an attempt to secure and fix, which correspondingly undoes and destroys through its inception. It also weaves a narrative of art that intermingles with Jean Baudrillard’s ideas on disappearance, Georges Bataille and Paul Virilio’s negative or reverse miracle, Jean-Luc Nancy’s concept of the image (or imago as votive that keeps present the past, yet also burns), and Giorgio Agamben’s notion of art as an attempt to make the moment appear permeable. Likewise, it is through these destructions that one might distinguish a solvency within art and catch an operation in which something is made visible through these moments of destruction when art’s metaphorical undoing emerges as oddly literal.

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Jared Pappas-Kelley

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Jared Pappas-Kelley

Chapter one surveys examples from news articles, books, and exhibitions that take the destruction of art as their starting point, and attempts to gather these approaches and accounts as a framework for the book. Solvent form looks to recent examples such as critic Jonathan Jones’s concept of a Museum of Lost Art—a place where all the destroyed and lost artworks might hang—poet Henri Lefebvre’s book The Missing Pieces, the Tate Modern’s recent virtual exhibition Gallery of Lost Art, as well as literary parallels taken from Tom McCarthy’s Remainder and Georges Perec’s character Bartlebooth in Life A User’s Manual. From here, it considers Georges Bataille’s concept of the negative miracle from The Accursed Share in relation to thoughts from Giorgio Agamben and Paul Virilio, while providing examples such as Rachel Whiteread’s House, Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning Drawing, and Jean Tinguely’s Homage to New York.

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Jared Pappas-Kelley

Chapter two endeavours to define art amid a portmanteau—starting with Jean-Luc Nancy’s understanding of art and the image in The Ground of the Image, Bataille’s ideas concerning art as a rupture or fissure, Jean Baudrillard’s Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?, and Paul Virilio’s The Accident of Art—to understand better the accident, disappearance, and destruction that art courts. Next, it proposes that through this art houses a solvency—in a sense undoing, yet at the same time securing or making fixed—as conflicting and resistant tendencies within the object formed. This chapter also puts forward a correlation between Bataille and Virilio and their ideas regarding the negative or reverse miracle (that they suggest gives art its form), which is similarly made visible through loss or destruction.

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Sruti Bala

The idea for the performance project Where We Are Not (2009) by the Amsterdam-based Lebanese artist Lina Issa emerged out of the artist's own legal situation at the time. Audience participation consists at the simplest level in being or becoming aware that one is invited to be a witness to or a part of a conversation and an intimately shared experience between Issa and Cordero. Tracy Davis argues that the condition for theatricality as an artistic and social phenomenon is the audience's awareness and consciousness of being spectators. The physical gestures are never only individual expressions, they are always also the performative montage of a social habitude, of the inequalities and the violence inherent to them. The word 'potentially' needs to be emphasized, for it would be fallacious to hastily conclude that the participatory gesture is a radical performative per se.

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Sruti Bala

This chapter suggests that the concept of the 'gesture' is more accurate than the 'act', as the concerned moments are not legible in terms of intentional, full-fledged signifying acts, but as minor, small movements in the larger frame of theatrical action. Sherry Arnstein argues that purely tokenistic forms of citizen participation can at worst lead to non-participation. The gestures of unsolicited participation in the workshop seek to remain illegible to the established discursive procedures of participatory theatre, they resist formalization without necessarily opposing it, and can thus often not even be recognized as resistant. The chapter includes various domains of the arts, wherein participation has become a debated topic, such as community-based or applied theatre and performance, immersive performance and the visual arts. The gestures of participation in the workshop can be regarded as both internal and external to the rules of spoken language.

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Sruti Bala

This chapter investigates the assumptions around impact in relation to participatory art, as well as the critical and methodological challenges of thinking them together. It focuses on a number of debates in theatre and performance scholarship pertaining to assessing and evaluating impact in relation to the question of participation. The chapter offers a number of points of orientation and aspects to take into consideration when undertaking a study of theatre's impact. Two characteristics of Teatro Siluetas are pertinent in relation to the question of impact and participation: the choice of the organizational form of a collective and the foregrounding of a lesbian subjectivity in the artistic practice. The chapter describes the problem of aggregation that is the relationship between participatory art and its social impact in terms of a spectrum of various levels of intensity of participation.

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Sruti Bala

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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Sruti Bala

This book presents a study that 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 reconsiders the status of participation, with particular emphasis on participatory art both beyond a judgement of its social qualities as well as the confines of format and devising. The book attempts a cross-disciplinary discussion of participation, bringing together examples from the field of applied and community theatre, performance art and participatory visual arts. Gestures of participation in performance indicate possibilities for reconfiguring civic participation in public spaces in unexpected ways. Thus, less emphasis is laid on direct opposition and instead seeking a variety of modes of resisting co-optation, through unsolicited, vicarious or delicate gestures of participation. The book examines the question of institutional critique in relation to participatory art. It moves on to address the relationship between participatory art and the concept of 'impact'. A close examination of one workshop setting using the methodological framework of the 'theatre of the oppressed' in the context of a political party-led initiative follows. The book follows two conceptually inspired performance projects Where We Are Not? and If I Could Take Your Place? Finally, it emphasizes on how common-sense assumptions around audience participation in theatre and performance theory are called into question by the artwork's foregrounding of sleep as a mode of participation.