Accepted Paper:

Participatory artists as expert creative ritualists, harnessing liminal capacities in the creative process to catalyse transformation  


Anni Raw (Newcastle University)

Paper short abstract:

Paper discusses participatory arts workshops as ritual sites of creative 'potency and potentiality'. Field observations highlight complex spatial relationships, slipping between imagined and experienced worlds; as, in a workshop 'ecology', artists foster collective capacity for reflection and action

Paper long abstract:

Drawing on ethnographic examples this paper discusses participatory/collaborative arts workshops as ritual sites of creative 'potency and potentiality' (Turner, 1979: 465-6). Studying the creative practices of artists working with disadvantaged groups in participatory projects, and their expertise in harnessing ritual capacities in the creative process, we discover a contemporary practice exemplifying Turner's potential of the 'liminoid'.

In ethnographic research (in the UK and Mexico) I have framed highly skilled artists' participatory practices as echoing the interstitial fluidity of the 'trickster', disruptor of the status quo, making visible alternative reality perceptions. Engaging with workshop groups, such artists work creatively with the human capacity to slip into imaginative, parallel realities, opening up spaces of validation and potential to make real the imagined worlds explored.

Field observations highlight complex and profound spatial relationships that enable the slipping between imagined and experienced worlds in order to propose new (at times transformational) pathways forward.

'Creativity is conceived [here] as a catalysing force, acting within a liminal space which practitioners work carefully to co-construct with participants. This force engages the juggling of realities, the 'making special' through ritual processes, and the worlds of imagination and play to create conditions for change.' (Raw 2013: 357)

Contributing new thinking to conceptualisations of spatial relationships in creative encounters within a workshop 'ecology', I propose that such sites can catalyse capacity and agency in community settings: that arts practitioners harness expertise in Turner's 'liminality' to foster, within these groups, a collective capacity for reflective refocusing, and for action.

Panel P027
Materialising the Imagination: How People Make Ideas Manifest