While theory is still struggling to explain the success of social media platforms to full satisfaction, contemporary art has made a quite considerable 'social turn' (Claire Bishop). Artists have developed a social practice that critically engages social and political phenomena and is strongly based on participation and collective action, without compromising its status as art. Recent exhibition projects such as Living as Form (Creative Time), The Art of Participation (SFMoMa) and Process as Paradigm (LABoral) have carved out the artistic, social and technological premises that bring forth and provoke contemporary participatory art projects. What easily can be overlooked when celebrating participation and collaboration in this way is the simple fact that artists can only operate as agents of change, if their participatory processes are accepted, i.e. involve and activate specific 'crowds', social groups or communities, by using their 'language' and means of communication and interaction, and appealing to their needs.

Hence this talk centres on the principles, challenges and limits of participation. By looking at specific participatory art projects this presentation attempts to put up for discussion a number of criteria for success and failure of participation. What is the artist's role in participatory processes? What role does technology play in enabling and fostering participation and mapping and communicating processes? How much autonomy do participatory processes require? How open or closed should processes be? And to what extend can participatory art go beyond intervention and have a lasting effect on people's lives? The talk summarizes the insights into current a social and participatory art practice that have been gained through interviews with artists and artists groups such as Torolab, Department for Public Appearances, Fernando Garcia Dory and others, and in particular analyses the 'Suomenlinna Money Lab' project by Christian Nold.

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