Participatory art and the cultural geographies of encounter

  • McNally, Danny (CoI)

Project: Research

Project Details


This thesis empirically investigates three participatory artworks in London, focusing specifically on the encounters and relations they created. Drawing from the geographies of art, geographies of materiality and new materialism, social geographies of encounter, and art theory and history, this thesis argues for a wider understanding of the encounter in Geography, subsequently applying this to the case study artworks. A cultural geography of encounter, it is suggested, is to attend to the complexities of making, mediating, and material relationships involved in participatory art.

The first empirical chapter follows a ‘nomadic sculpture’ around the borough of Tower Hamlets and investigates the type of connectivity and encounters it generated between participants. The second empirical chapter looks at a series of art workshops and investigates the emergence of a collaborative atmosphere that developed within and around the group of participants. The third empirical chapter critically engages with the socio-political relations of creative labour in the production of a socially engaged art project. The fourth empirical chapter draws from the previous case study artwork, but focuses on how gallery assistants played a mediating role between the public and the exhibition. It then turns to the materiality of the exhibition and how this mediated a particular more-than-human public.

The concluding chapter draws from across each of the case study artworks identifying and discussing three particular understandings of ‘relations’ that emerged. Categorised as ‘makings’, ‘mediations’ and ‘materialities’, it uses these as a framework to tie the case studies together and subsequently suggests them as methodological and conceptual tools for future geographical research on artworks that focus on creating encounters and relations.

Effective start/end date19/09/1122/09/14


  • Art
  • Encounter
  • Aesthetics
  • Cultural Geography