Like all good criticism, Claire Bishop’s Artificial Hells adds both context and complexity to the subject it examines. This book traces the lineage of participatory art (the author’s umbrella term for socially engaged art, social practice, political art, etc.) and gives a historical frame of reference for investigating the current incarnations of this form of art-making. Throughout her work, Bishop maintains a critical stance and offers an insightful assessment of this practice. She refuses to unquestioningly accept the social and artistic worth or efficacy of participatory art, and makes a convincing argument of the need to refine the standards by which we judge such works. To her credit as well, Bishop deftly incorporates into her arguments the work of complex theorists and philosophers like Jacques Rancière and Felix Guattari – making their concepts clear and relevant in relation to her position. Artificial Hells is a book well worth reading for those interested in contemporary artistic practice or the intersections of art and social/political action.
Recommended by Matthew Ducmanas, Circulation Supervisor.