Transformation of the aesthetic: Art as participatory design

Matthew Holt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


This paper argues that the most significant, contemporary synthesis of art and design is occurring at the level of participatory projects, and not in the more customary fields of collusion (product design, for example). These projects are durational, experiential, and dialogic, and therefore I argue that traditional aesthetics based on the contemplation of objects and the analysis of representations does not adequately account for what amounts to an aesthetics of co-creation. To examine this transformation this paper surveys participatory art and design projects in a number of different fields and also some of the key critical literature around the aesthetics of collaboration and dialog. Finally it argues that art in the form of participatory design offers a political alternative to both the avant-garde tactic of adversarial “shock” and the notion of presenting a voice or an opinion in a neutral public sphere; rather it can be seen to modify – design – that sphere itself.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-165
Number of pages23
JournalDesign and Culture
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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