From spectacle to socially engaged art practice: art as potential disruptor and transformer of engagement with the spectacle

Marcel Allen, Master of Creative Technologies (March 2014 – July 2015)
A practice-based exploration of interactive public art as potential catalyst for political change.

People Involved:
Marcel Allen – MCT researcher
James Charlton – Primary Supervisor
Charles Walker – Secondary Supervisor

This research project looks at the potential of public art to engage and transform our individual and collective understandings of dominant contemporary socio-political concepts, perspectives and ideology. It analyses tactics and strategies from other arts practices engaged in social practice, explicitly or implicitly and incorporates them into the research projects methodology of art practice. The works developed use primarily interactive video installations to allude to site specific, contextually based issues. They re-imagine the space and provoke participants to infer and also create their own meaning, and thus aim to spark active as well as reflective engagement with the ideas and themes of the specific works. The work is a lens to not only examine issues of social hierarchies, hegemonic ideology and dominant world-views, but to provoke audience response and action. To this end Guy Debord’s concepts of spectacle, detournement and recuperation serve as a tool for analysing how various arts practices including that of this research project operate and address the dominant social, cultural and the economic views via aesthetic and ethico-political means. It looks at the possibilities of aesthetic detournement of spectacular life and the extent that the detourne resists recuperation, or re-appropriation by the dominant order of things. It aims to effectively disrupt the spectacle and resist being consumed back into the spectacular order. It is a presentation and representation of the unearthing of concealed truths, to provoke discussion and mindfulness of the structures of the spectacle, in as much as the spectacle can be viewed as propaganda for the dominant hegemony of meaning. The tensions and relationship between spectacle and social practice art, aesthetics and ethics are investigated through theory, practice and reflection.

Spectacle; Social practice; Debord; Relational art; New Zealand flag; Installation art; Socially engaged art

Full thesis can be viewed here –