Social Practice in Art and Performance (DRA2073)

StaffDr Kerrie Schaefer - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

Taking as its point of departure art critic/academic Claire Bishop’s identification of a ‘social turn’ in art practice, this module aims to introduce students to a broad range of international art and performance practices which claim social and aesthetic objectives. 

This module aims to impart an historical and critical understanding of ‘social practice’ in the arts, including theatre and performance, and to encourage theoretically informed analyses of socially- engaged art making and spectating.

This module also aims to encourage students to critically engage with various theoretical developments in relation to social practice in art and performance, such as ‘relational aesthetics’ and ‘emancipated spectatorship’, and to critically interrogate concepts such as site-specificity, community, participation, collaboration and affectivity in relation to specific practices.

Through close reading and critical analysis of theoretical material as well as theatrical practices, the module aims to widen our understanding of what is at stake for makers, participants and publics in socially engaged art and performance.

While reading about different practices and analysing the theoretical frameworks, ideologies, and philosophies that underpin them, there will be the opportunity for you undertake small-group experiment, analysis and presentation on these differing modes of art and performance, and to pursue independent research into an area of your interest.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate knowledge of a range and variety of socially engaged practices in art and performance.
  • 2. Demonstrate an understanding of key theoretical approaches to the study of social practice in art and performance.
  • 3. Demonstrate a creative and critical engagement with processes of socially-engaged art and performance making.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Contribute research to small groups in effective presentations, to evaluate visual evidence and analyse, critique and manipulate complex material.
  • 5. Apply library and IT skills in independent additional research.
  • 6. To work effectively with others in small task-orientated groups and to initiate and sustain creative, analytic and interpretative work within strict time limits.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Develop personal research skills using personal initiative; to set personal objectives and to identify and evaluate personal learning strategies.
  • 8. Develop group cooperation skills, including the ability to give and receive constructive critical feedback and to improve communication skills and analytic abilities in discussions.
  • 9. Collaborate in various groups and group sizes, to learn elements of teamwork and presentation.
  • 10. Balance between self-direction and collaborative work; self-management, collaborative working skills, problem solving, critical analysis and valuing own and others ideas and beliefs.

Syllabus plan

The module begins with a series of lectures introducing students to key theories, practices and critical debates in social practice in the arts. This will be accompanied by structured seminar tasks exploring examples of social practice in art and performance, and pair and small-group critical analysis of theoretical (aesthetic and sociological/philosophical) approaches and reading group tasks on the scholarly literature.

The middle weeks of the module will be a series of small-group student-led presentations further investigating critical issues raised in and through lectures and seminar discussions. Presentations may focus on topics including community, public space, site-specificity, relational aesthetics, modes of spectatorship, citizenship, participation and engagement, co-creation and collaboration, affectivity, discourses of care and support, and so on.

The final weeks of the module will allow students to develop individual research interests linked to the final essay of the module.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities33Seminars: a combination of staff-led lectures, student presentations, analysis, tasks and discussion in seminars.
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities36Small group and pair preparation. Preparation for weekly tasks, reports, discussions, and presentations.
Guided independent study231Reading and individual preparation for presentations, essay writing, portfolio writing.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
PresentationSmall group, 40 minutesallPeer and staff verbal commentary

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay602,000 words1-3, 5, 7, 10Written
Paired Presentation4045 minutes1-3, 4, 6, 7-10Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-3, 5, 7, 10Referred/deferred period
Paired PresentationIndividual Presentation 20 mins1-3, 4, 6, 7-10Referred/deferred period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Claire Bishop, “The Social Turn: Collaboration and Its Discontents” Artforum 44.6 (February 2006): 178-183

----------------  Artificial Hells. London: Verso, 2012

Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics. Les Presses du Reel, 1998.

Kate Crehan. Community Art. An Anthropological Perspective. London; New York: Berg, 2011.

Pablo Helguera. Education for Socially Engaged Art. New York: Jorge Pinto Books, 2011.

Sophie Hope. Participating in the Wrong Way? Four experiments. Cultural Democracy Editions, 2012.

Shannon Jackson. Social Works. Performing Art, Supporting Publics. Routledge 2011.

Baz Kershaw, The Politics of Performance: radical theatre as cultural intervention. London: Routledge, 1992

---, Theatre Ecology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Grant Kester. Conversation Pieces. University of California Press, 2004.

Petra Kuppers. Community Performance: An Introduction. Routledge, 2007.

Petra Kuppers and Gwen Robertson. The Community Performance Reader. Routledge, 2007.

Miwon Kwon. One Place After Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity. MIT Press, 2002.

Helen Nicholson. Applied Drama. The Gift of Theatre. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

Sheila Preston and Tim Prentki (Eds.) The Applied Theatre Reader. London: Routledge, 2008.

Jacques Ranciere, The Emancipated Spectator. London: Verso, 2009

---, Staging the People. London, Verso, 2011.                  

Nicholas Ridout, ‘Performance and Democracy’, in Tracy C. Davis (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Performance Studies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Michael Rohd ‘Translations: Engaging Engagement’

------------ ‘Translations: The Distinction between Social and Civic Practice and Why I Find It Useful’

------------(R)Ev-ifesto: Michael Rohd and find the transcript here

Nicki Shaughnessy Applying Performance: Live Art, Socially Engaged Theatre and Affective Practice, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2012 312pp

Thompson, J. Performance Affects. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.              

Thompson, J., Richard Schechner. "Why Social Theatre." TDR: The Journal of Performance Studies T181(2004) – special issue on Social Theatre

David Wiles, Theatre and Citizenship. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

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Key words search

Social art, applied performance, community, participation, site-specific,
collaboration, affect