Lygia Clark and the Logics of Participation After 'Failed' Revolt


  • Kristen Carter



In the past decade numerous scholars have mediated on the political efficacy of a socially engaged, interactive art practice, tracing its histories in relation to debates concerning a perceived crisis in community and collective responsibility today. This essay explores these debates in relation to Lygia Clark’s Collective Body Series, which she developed while teaching at L’Université Paris-Sorbonne from 1972 to 1976. I argue that the conceptual and artistic frameworks that have been developed regarding participatory art practices alongside the trajectory of Clark’s work do not account for the complexity and radical potential inherent in the kind of collective bodies established in the work she produced between 1972 and 1976 in Paris. My primary focus with Clark concerns how the elaboration of collectivity in these interactive works, which she called propositions, can be brought to bear on a contentious and uncertain moment wherein the perceived promise of participation and collectivity ostensibly failed. That is, by situating her work within the immediate wake of May 1968, my analysis reconsiders what participation and collectivity could look like in the wake of ‘failed’ revolt.