Photo: Nick Singleton
Published: 21 January 2016
To mark the end of British Art Show 8 in the city, Leeds Art Gallery opened up a two-day symposium titled What is Participation? coordinated and led by Natalie Walton.
The event set out to explore different models of participation and engagement, with the exhibition having served as a testing ground for partner organisations within the region.
It did not set out to be a standard analysis, or a numeric report of the successes of the projects, but to really give an experience of the discussion, activities and which had taken place. Attendees were encouraged to take part in the workshops themselves, experiencing first-hand the different ways in which people had participated in the British Art Show.
Kate Genever and Steve Pool lead 'why does it have to be so difficult…why can't someone just tell me what to think?' Photo: Nick Singleton
The event was kicked off by Ronnie Hughes, Board Member of the Granby 4 Streets Community Land Trust, credited at the 2015 Turner Prize Awards for the work winners Assemble have been doing over the past few years. He gave a fitting introduction to what projects could be like when 'participation' was at the very heart of the project and decision making processes.
Axisweb was invited to run a session around the recent #BeyondTheGallery research and campaign, feeding back on the responses and conversations we had. It was a great opportunity to discuss with a great range of people, from artists, to those who had been in workshops, to educators and curators.
Workshop in progress Photo: Nick Singleton
The organisations present from the Leeds area, Arts and Minds, Pyramid of Arts, Leeds Libraries and Poly-Technic supplied a dynamic mix of projects and events, demonstrating the ways in which artists had worked with them to realise projects. It was a day not about the numbers, it wasn't box ticking or monitoring, but really about the participants, and think closely about the methods by which people access and experience art in galleries.
The afternoon gave us a chance to really examine some of the questions we had been discussing in the morning, providing the opportunity for everyone to really consider what were the motivations and approaches were to participating.
By the end we had devised and presented four statements to deliver to the British Art Show team as it travelled to it's next stop in Edinburgh.
The symposium was a great example of the importance of evaluating not just through numbers and outcomes, but the importance of the quality and method of the project's delivery.
The Art doctors Photo: Nick Singleton