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Volume 1, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2042-793X
  • E-ISSN: 2042-7948


The tensions that exist in thinking around politicized collaborative art are exemplified by the theoretical positions taken by Claire Bishop and Grant Kester. Bishop argues that the autonomy of the artist is indispensable to the critical function of collaborative art, and that this is impeded by an ‘ethical turn’ in criticism that promotes ‘the sacrifice of authorship in the name of a “true” and respectful collaboration’ (Bishop 2006a: 181). By contrast, Kester affirms that ethical reflection is a central feature of collaborative art, where the artist must overcome their own privileged status in order to create an equal dialogue with participants. This article is an attempt to move beyond the polarized form of debate between these two theorists. It argues that collaborative art is defined by a contradiction where an apparently free aesthetic space is superimposed on the social and institutional reality of art with all of its implicit exclusions. Despite appearances, the positions of Kester and Bishop are complicit in their attempt to expel this contradiction. This article argues that this contradiction must be regarded as the foundation of the political in collaborative art. In doing so it suggests that Ranci concept ‘dissensus’ offers scope for mapping the paradoxical complexity of the interdependence of ethical, aesthetic and political issues in the liminal space between art and the social.


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