The clue’s in the name: participatory art happens when people get to participate. The closure of cinemas, theatres and music venues is a very visible effect of the pandemic. The suspension of community art and co-creation workshops has received little attention, but it has affected many of the most vulnerable people in society. For some, a regular art workshop, dance session or choir rehearsal was a cornerstone of their social life, playing a vital role in their health and well-being. Many participatory arts organisations have moved their work online, using videoconference platforms like Zoom and Teams to keep connected. In doing so, they’ve discovered new ways of working, and found some real benefits, but also run into the injustice of digital exclusion.
The Traction project, on which I’ve been working since last year, explores the potential of new digital tools in supporting opera co-creation for social inclusion. What was a good research idea has become far more urgent with the lockdowns, so we’re starting to share some of our experiences, and introduce the technology we’re developing, though it is still work-in-progress.
Next week, on 27 May, Irish National Opera and I will host a web discussion about running art workshops online.
Among other things, we’ll present Co-creation Space, a digital platform that’s been used by Finola Merivale, who is composing INO’s Traction community opera, in co-creation workshops with non-professional artists in Ireland. We’ll also hear from Pete Moser, founder of More Music and community musician, about how people have worked with, not despite, the technical weaknesses of video calls.
And on 10 June, we’ll be doing a second session, about digital technology in performance, right after a concert using Traction to link a concert hall in Lisbon with a youth prison 150 kilometres away; fingers crossed…