Marcel Duchamp, a pioneering artist and leading figure in the Dada movement, argued that both the artist and the viewer are necessary for the completion of a work of art. He posited that the creation of art begins with the artist—often working in isolation in the studio—and is not completed until it is placed out in the world and viewed by others. “All in all, the creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act,” he once wrote.1
As Duchamp was making his case in the late 1950s, artists were beginning to present work that not only reflected their recognition of this relationship, but also their radical reinvention of it. They crafted performances, events, instructions, and happenings that invited—and sometimes required—people’s participation. By soliciting such active involvement, artists were attempting to break down traditional and perceived barriers between themselves, their work, and the viewer.
Artists engage and collaborate with audiences in many different ways today. By opening up their process of creation to others, they give up a measure of control over their work, and give over to chance and to trust in the viewer-turned-participant. And the work of art, in turn, becomes a two-way exchange.
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A term that emerged in the 1960s to describe a diverse range of live presentations by artists.
A performance, event, or situation considered as art, especially those initiated by the artists group Fluxus in the early 1960s. Such events are often planned, but involve elements of improvisation, may take place in any location, are multidisciplinary, and frequently involve audience participation.
An artistic and literary movement that grew out of dissatisfaction with traditional social values and conventional artistic practices during World War I (1914–18). Dada artists were disillusioned by the social values that led to the war and sought to expose accepted and often repressive conventions of order and logic by shocking people into self-awareness.