Simon Biggs (UK)


Might all art be considered participatory? Expanded concepts of agency, such as actor-network-theory (Latour 2005), question what or who can be an active participant, allowing us to revise the debate on authorship from a new perspective. We can ask whether creativity might be regarded as a form of social interaction rather than an outcome. How might we understand creativity as interaction between people and things, as sets of discursive relations rather than outcomes?

Whilst creativity is often perceived as the product of the individual artist, or creative ensemble, it can also be considered an emergent phenomenon of communities, driving change and facilitating individual or ensemble creativity. Creativity can be a performative activity released when engaged through and by a community and understood as a process of interaction.

In this context the model of the solitary artist, producing artefacts that embody creativity, is questioned as an ideal for achieving creative outcomes. Instead, creativity is proposed as an activity of exchange that enables (creates) people and communities. In Creative Land (2003) anthropologist James Leach describes cultural practices where the creation of new things, and the ritualised forms of exchange enacted around them, function to "create" individuals and bind them in social groups, "creating" the community they inhabit. Leach's argument is an interesting take on the concept of the gift-economy and suggests it is possible to conceive of creativity as emergent from and innate to the interactions of people. Such an understanding might then function to combat an instrumentalist view of creativity that demands of artists that their creations have social (e.g.: "economic") value. In the argument proposed here, creativity is not valued as arising from a perceived need, a particular solution or product, nor from a supply-side "blue skies" ideal, but as an emergent property of communities.