Since the 1990s, critics and curators have broadly accepted the notion that participatory art is the ultimate political art: that by encouraging an audience to take part an artist can promote new emancipatory social relations. Around the world, the champions of this form of expression are numerous, ranging from art historians such as Grant Kester, curators such as Nicolas Bourriaud and Nato Thompson, to performance theorists such as Shannon Jackson.

Artificial Hells is the first historical and theoretical overview of socially engaged participatory art, known in the US as “social practice.” Claire Bishop follows the trajectory of twentieth-century art and examines key moments in the development of a participatory aesthetic. This itinerary takes in Futurism and Dada; the Situationist International; Happenings in Eastern Europe, Argentina and Paris; the 1970s Community Arts Movement; and the Artists Placement Group. It concludes with a discussion of long-term educational projects by contemporary artists such as Thomas Hirschhorn, Tania Bruguera, Pawe? Althamer and Paul Chan.

Since her controversial essay in Artforum in 2006, Claire Bishop has been one of the few to challenge the political and aesthetic ambitions of participatory art. In Artificial Hells, she not only scrutinizes the emancipatory claims made for these projects, but also provides an alternative to the ethical (rather than artistic) criteria invited by such artworks. Artificial Hells calls for a less prescriptive approach to art and politics, and for more compelling, troubling and bolder forms of participatory art and criticism.

Elmgreen & Dragset: Performances 1995-2011 showcases 43 performances and live works by Danish-Norwegian artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset, marking the first time the artists’ practice is considered in depth from a performance perspective. Spanning nearly two decades, many of the works have never before appeared in a catalogue. The book includes image documentation and descriptions of each work along with full scripts–accessible here for the first time to a broader audience–for the plays “Drama Queens” (2007) and “Happy Days in the Art World” (2011), as well as new essays by curators, critics and art historians including Aaron Betsky, Jens Hoffmann and Shannon Jackson.

Known for their wit and humor, Berlin-based art duo Elmgreen & Dragset, consider an exhibition to be a work of art in itself. In conjunction with their first major exhibition in Oslo, Biography celebrates the artists twenty years of art making. This helfy illustrated small-scale artists book gathers many of their exhibition-based projects to generate altered readings and new layers of meaning in their work. Contributors include Hans Ulrich Obrist, Martin Herbert and Shannon Jackson.

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