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Material Participant – Bath Spa University

Established in 2016, the Material : Participant research group brings together staff from across the School of Art to interrogate the role of active participants in the production, exhibition and interpretation of material outcomes.

Embracing practice-based research, the group asks: How do the making, exhibiting and interpreting of material works and objects in public contexts engage with people as active participants?

Other lines of enquiry include:

  • What form do relationships within a work take – who participates? Does participation have to be defined by an ‘audience’ or can participation be, say, between two artists?
  • How do we understand change and temporality when objects, material construction and installation directly involve audiences and participants?
  • How can participants be (or not be) genuine agents of change in the development of projects, when projects depend on creative leadership and agreed strategies?
  • How does the theory and practice of relational projects and practices with no material outcomes (including those generically referred to as performance) influence working with material and object based practices - and vice versa?
  • Documentation, presentation, evaluation – can this happen from within or is it necessarily outside the project?

As well as presentations from its own members, the group has hosted talks by practitioners from beyond the School, including Astrid Breel on her work in participatory performance and Dr Trish Scott (Goldsmiths).

Get in touch

If you're interested in research (theory or practice-led) and the relationship between research and participation in projects with a material outcome, such as new artwork, exhibitions, performances and so on, or have questions, please get in touch with Professor Michael Tooby (

Masthead image credit: Jenny Dunseath and Kate Squires - Screen shot from As Seen

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