The Festive Tribe WordPress blog is a place for me to collect and share art projects, works, artists, festivals, events and concepts that inform my practice. It is a visual exploration of the possibilities and practicalities of creating participatory work presented in public spaces. It explores art experiences in public and festival spaces, interactive pieces and art for young audiences.

This selection is guided by works of art that I personally respond to, pieces or projects I would love to experience, and works that I have often experienced in person.

Festive Tribe engages in a practice where art meets community. Works are installed at public and ticketed events where families and individuals are invited to engage in open-ended play or participation in large scale play scapes. Participation is critical. Without an audience the work could not exist. Participants interact and affect the visual, aesthetic and theoretical language of the work. The physical landscape of the work is ever evolving. The works and artists gathered here share these qualities.

Works require audience engagement and collaboration. Works can be explored, touched, climbed on over or through. They require more than just thought and consideration. They require robust participation, a bodily response, movement, action, physical exertion and presence.

The art-audience relationship is tactile. It is physical. The works are activated by this participation, given meaning, they come to life.

This eschewing of the art object in favour of the art experience is important. Under the framework of New-Materialism the art here all utilise a huge variety of materials, methods and processes. Some works are painstakingly hand-made, sewn, woven or knitted, calling upon a history of craft, of women’s work, tribal practices of basket weaving, fish trap and net making, the making of vessels and containers out of raw, organic materials- utilising and transforming historically lowly materials- rope or sticks, into something other worldly. In contrast, others drawn up on a material history that is aligned with fields of scientific research and new technologies in digital art; digital materialism. These pieces are designed by the artist then manufactured or created from prefabricated materials in a factory utilising plastic moulding, LED lighting technology, coding and programming. Digital art practice offers new opportunities for viewers to participate in the work. Artists have the opportunity to play with the real-virtual boundary between the viewer and the digital dimension.

Other projects are framed by a history of social practice and the art of participation. Works seek processes of community involvement and social engagement rather than end results or aesthetics. Works are open ended. There is often no fixed idea, conclusion or outcome which the artist seeks.

Utilising non- traditional locations, such as music festivals or other public events, street or wilderness locations, these artists push boundaries of what and where art can be. They also challenge the traditional view of the ‘preciousness’ of an art object. These pieces experience wear and tear, they may need repair or replacement or duplication in time. Or they have an ‘end’ life post the exhibit and they cease to exist at all except for in documentation.

These works often respond to their site in some way. They are a different work in each new location they are installed in. Some are site-specific, some are readily adaptable. Each has a pre-designed context in which to insert the viewer. The work explored here also helps me examine the practical aspects of installing interactive art in public spaces. There are key considerations as to how the art will be interacted with and used, especially by children. Safety, physical integrity, stability, longevity of materials are all considerations. Looking at how other artists tackle and resolve these issues, this blog allows me to see what is possible in my own art practice.

Examining the theoretical frameworks and communities of practice in which my work fits inspires new possibilities and thematic exploration. I am seeking ways to create a dialogue between art and participant that extends beyond play. Ways to enable participant to become co-creator and co-conspirator. By creating opportunity to transcend traditional art audiences and places of engagement, through nontraditional settings, the work has broader reach, wider audience, a longevity that supersedes the ephemeral nature of festival or event art, or the temporary nature of an exhibition.

Art that moves into the spaces we inhabit in everyday life.

Carsten Holler

Carsten Höller’s work is about visual perception, and the ways in which the body reacts to different stimuli.

Exploring themes of play in my work, I immediately identify with this. Physicality is a big part of my work. Particpants move through or in the space and the work requires action and movement .

Without even yet having time for much reading around Holler’s work you can see the childhood play themes- he built a carousel and designed a HUGE slide! How fabulous is that! A lot of my undergraduate work explored the imagery and iconography of childhood and toys. Carousels being one subject I loved to draw and photograph. Of course I am much more interested in setting up small scale interventions these days that ask participants to act upon the objects, here Holler’s objects enact upon the particpant.

Olafur Eliason

River Rocks

This is my second Olafur Elliason post, and it probably won’t be my last!

Created specifically for the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark, ‘Riverbed’, 2014, filled the entire south wing of the museum with a rocky landscape that threaded a stream through the galleries.

Of course my RiverScape is made of rocks- only fabric ones. I have thought about having real pebbles and small rocks to create opportunities for the lovely tactile experience of touching and sorting river stones- I can see both adults and children doing this in these photos… but managing them in an open public space is problematic, and in the sometimes chaotic spaces of public outdoor festivals where children interact in the work not closely supervised by their distracted parents, there could be injuries….

I would love to experience this work. How serene, other worldly. At once of the earth and yet removed from nature, almost alien, yet familiar. I can smell the earth in the gallery and hear the sound of clattering pebbles as one walks around, so a sensory immersion.

Some notes:

Human/Non Human

Connecting Space

Constructed Nature


Heightened Awareness

Site Specific

New Materialism


Slowing down

Please Touch

Akron Art Museum

Please Touch shakes off all of the traditional museum-goer behavior and asks visitors to use their sense of touch to experience the exhibition.

For Please Touch, the museum commissioned a group of regional artists to create new works that actively engage audiences of all ages. Erin Guido creates brightly colored dynamic shape and text murals often found in surprising places, like abandoned buildings, offering friendly encouragement as they declare “come over all the time” or “hi.” Jordan Elise and Christopher Lees create mounted animal sculptures they call Horrible Adorables and design patterns for fabric and wallpaper, as well as plastic toys for Kid Robot. Inspired by skateboarding and D.I.Y. culture, Jay Croft’s illustrations have donned skateboard decks, his zine Street Canoe, and most recently, a mural at Chill Ice Cream in downtown Akron.

For Please Touch, each artist has created an interactive work that visitors can touch and manipulate as they make meaning of it in their own ways.

Oh I love this show. I love it’s joyfulness and charm. I love that it shows kids that adults can be playful too as art makers and I love its whimsical illustrative nature. When I place my work in public and observe the interactions I love seeing how adults engage with the work. Whether or not they engage with it first and lead by example for their children sets up what follows almost every time. Some days my challenge is seeing how many parents I can encourage to join in, slow down and just be in the moment with their children. The rushing of children through these play experiences really frustrates me! In Disco Inflato I am ALWAYS pointing out to harried and harrying parents trying to drag their kids away that the 3 minute pop song isn’t over yet and perhaps they’d kindly just let their child participate at least for the duration of one song! Grandparents are the best- they get it!!

“Horrible Adorables are strange creatures from a fantastical land. They are hybrids of selected animals, and have qualities that are both sinister and sweet (horrible and adorable, if you will). We explore relationships that exist between our beasts as well as how they interact with their environment to reveal recognizably human emotions. Horrible Adorables have taken many different forms over the years; as fine art pieces, home decor, and even vinyl toys.”

ordan Elise Perme and Christopher Lees (Horrible Adorables), Hiding in the Hollow (detail), 2017, mixed media, courtesy of the artists.

Here I am interested the imaginary world created, and the blurring of real and imagined animals and landscapes. The Fabric fish I make for RiverScape exist in this realm and I am exploring the question of what is real and what is imagined in my playscapes.

L-R: Erin Guido and John Paul Costello, Melpomene and Thalia, 2017, mixed media, courtesy of the artists; Shapes and Pegs, 2017, mixed media, courtesy of the artists; and Today I feel, 2017, mixed media, courtesy of the artists. Photography by Joe Levack/Studio Akron

The beautiful wooden puzzle board at the back is so like my Mo-Scape mosiac walls. I love it! It offers participants autonomy of action. Children can choose shapes and colours and place them anywhere on the board. It offers a tactile experience that children often engage in repetitively. They get absorbed in the mosaic wall and place tile after tile until the wall is filled…

Anthropology and Play. The contours of playful experience.

written by Thomas M Malaby

Socio-anthropologist Thomas M Malaby ‘s essay explores the recent questioning of ideas around games and play and how they are finally no longer perceived in terms of a definition that is in opposition to our understanding of ‘work’. His essay frames play and definition and understanding of play from an anthropological perspective and argues that it is a relevant way to reframe our past and current thinking on what is is to play.

Along with gaming culture and the rise of highly successful YouTubers amassing millions in the bank , It has become difficult to deny that play is often productive and that work, rather than always a matter of routine, can be shot through with the open-endedness we
most often associate with play. Along the way, it has also become more difficult to sustain claims that play is essentially about “fun,” “pleasure,” or other positively charged sentiments. Gamlbing addiction being a good example of this.

One of the many articles and books I have been reading on play theory. Brian Sutton Smith’s book “The anthropology is Play’ is another resource.

I also want to read Dark Ecology by Timothy Morton. This quote from 2017 resonates with me: “Art is quiet attention, a conversation and not a human one only.”

I observe participants engaging with my work in this manner. Children are especially good at giving things quiet attention through doing, moving, playing, sideways actions and small gestures of affect.

I think what has shifted for me in my practice since last semester is a real honing in on the existing elements in my work. I am beginning to explore those elements deeper and our human/non human relationships within the materiality of the work, and also what it represents. I like the idea of making small gestures rather than grand scale interventions, although perhaps physically some of my works are largish….the engagement and actions that take place within them don’t have to be.

Imagination Playground and SNUG

Imagination Playground and SNUG are both UK companies that have designed innovative mobile play systems for young children. They create opportunities for play through large scale building systems that can be set up anywhere. Construction, problem solving, creativity, collaboration and fine and gross motor skills are all employed when children play in these spaces. They really are fabulously thought out, designed and constructed with durable cleanable closed cell EVA foam. Child directed, open ended encouraging self expression through deep play.


I am interested in them as they work as a means of creating situations for play that is both physical and problem solving. The work I make, or the situations I set up for participants require physical participation in this way. They too are open ended. Anything can happen. There are few rules other than safety (no throwing). If anyone is engaging in my work unsafely, I have to say, it is usually a parent setting a very bad example that I need to scold….and clearly showing that they aren’t imaginative enough to engage with the work and help their child explore it’s potential!

SNUG Playgrounds by SNUG and Outdoor

These work beautifully in the public spaces of public (or private) events and festivals where engagement is open participation in an open space (non ticketed) and the number of people or children the play and the spaces set up can accommodate is limitless. It works in the same way as RiverScape, with the added advantage of it being water proof! No soggy and muddy fabric to pack up at the end of the day.


Jesus Soto

The Penetrable Series by Jesus Soto are part of the geneology of my research. Beginning his career as a kinetic artist, his work and methodology developed to incorporate the spectator as active participant in the work. He created the first Penetrable piece in 1967. Allowing the audience to move through the work realised his concepts around using space and time into his kinetic sculptures. He also felt that they enabled him to realise ideas around connections, stating his core ideas for them were ‘ a universe filled with relationships.’

Made from thousands of strands from either the ceiling or a PVC & steel construction. The Penetrables allowed his spectators to enter them and get immersed in the depth of the work. To get a full understanding of them, a viewer needed to experience them from numerous perspectives within time as they move through space. Thus, the viewer becomes an integral part of the artwork by touching or moving it, or simply by walking through it.

Like “Measuring the Universe” by Roman Ondak, these stunning works are striking in their minimality, simplicity and illusionary qualities. They are different from a distance to experienced up close and inside the work. They would be fabulous to experience and also make my think Rain Room draws on these works in the physical structure and the sense you have as a participant enclosed in the space within the space of the work.

Here I am interested in seeking definitions of how audiences are engaged in interactive installations compared to the more recent models of participatory processes and experience based engagement. Works that create a set of experiences for participants, and in a way, use the participants as a component of the work, as opposed to artists who set up opportunities for collaboration with participants.

My work mostly sits in the former camp tho objects are moved and placed throughout the Play-scapes at the participants choice to create new arrangements, so perhaps my practice sits somewhere between?

Briony Barr

Tape It – Collaborative Drawing

Barr’s Tape it collaborative projects were created to engage children and families. Her interest is in complex systems, explored through process base, site specific expanded drawing. There are many incredible projects or experiments in complex drawing systems undertaken with adult participants – or agents as she refers to them- such as scientists at a conference- but they are for another post! On her website Barr explains: ‘A collaboration between Briony Barr and physicist Andrew Melatos, Drawing on Complexity combines collaborative, expanded drawing with the study of complex systems to create ‘art experiments’, large-scale floor drawings made by groups of participants using coloured electrical (PVC) tape. The participants (called ‘agents’) enact the drawing by following simple rules determining placement of tape and collaboration with other agents. Through this process, complex patterns emerge in the drawing, within the boundaries of the system. The term ‘agent’ comes from ‘agent-based modelling’; a digital process used to simulate and predict complex systems: networks with huge numbers of interacting parts such as crowds, traffic, weather systems, Facebook users, animal populations or the stock market. It is helpful to imagine the rule-based, collaborative drawing process evolving a little bit like a game of football. In a sporting framework, the rules determine how players can interact with one another, how they can move with or without the ball, what happens if they break the rules and the spatial design in which all this take place. The unpredictable outcome of the game and movement patterns that occur throughout it are a product of these rules and boundaries, made visible through the actions of the players, within the agreed temporal constraints of the game.

I will concentrate here on her work with children. Barr seeks to create open ended process through large scale creative collaborations . Her methodology explores what she terms an ‘expanded drawing practice’ using electrical tape and site specificity to create marks and lines on floors and walls.

Work created via grants or ARTPLAY projects have involved parents working with children in up to 6 days of continual drawing onto the surfaces of the ARTPLAY space. She has also made work at NGV, the immigration museum, Civic Art Studio and many schools, festivals and village halls.

Through a series of workshops or the free drop in sessions of the extended installations of the work she sets game board style restrictions to the space, with a day of what she calls ‘undrawing’ at the end. The outcomes have been unexpected and in turn have informed her practice in new ways.

The principles she practices in working with children and families are:


fear blocks creativity

set parameters


Very little electrical tape ends up in the bin- and this is a large post but the images of the last day of each project- the undrawing are too fabulous not to share . Undrawing is when particpants pull up all the tape and make objects from it.

Barr’s collaborative drawing projects empower children through creative methodologies and process based works, expanding their understanding of drawing and art-making processes and freeing them up from the fear that older children get when they become self conscious in their mark making and start to think ‘I can’t draw’.

The results are beautiful, surprising and joyful. The process is a fun, active engagement requiring collaboration with others and the fine motor skill develop I consider with children as part of my practice. As with Paola’s work, tape is a great medium (especially when it doesn’t end up in the bin) as it is plentiful, colourful and fun to work with.

I’d love to be an agent in one of Barr’s future projects.


Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphries

Pivot is a field of ‘semi intelligent’ see-saws that absorb and reflect the responses of the participants who ride them and talk back in conversation. First installed in Fed Square in 2017, they have since travelled the world. Their scripts have evolved with each new context/presentation they are installed in. They are programmed yet respond to their audience. A point of interest is the assumptions the rider might make about the speaking see-saw, be warned they are open to disruption… one response is “I am not your virtual assistant”!

A pivot point is where points of dissonance find balance.

From their website: “Consider this an invitation to join a conversation. Pivot is a playground for anyone adult enough to want to engage with ideas and passions that may be different to their own. We ask you to be patient with Pivot, as with each other. Enjoy the rare opportunity to ride in the field of see saws. They are an endangered piece of equipment, much like the dwindling opportunities more generally in contemporary society to resolve our differences through the peaceful means of dialogue.

Maybe you can rejoice in the safe absurdity of a see saw ride, while our democracy teeters towards dangerous farce.Even as you ride, speak, listen, maybe ride again, and perhaps leave, remember that Pivot is programmed to consider all words it hears, and is reflecting your own views, and the views of many others. We hope that you can initiate your own personal dialogue as a tonic for a strengthened empathy towards others.”

Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey are award winning conceptual artists who create unexpected situations for listening.  They have so many projects travelling to art events everywhere. Their work explores the importance of interaction, both human and non human, intergenerational interactions, anthropomorphic action. It encompass site-specificity, Artificial Intelligence in public spaces and socially engaged public art interventions.

In the RMIT open talk I attended on the collaborators the things that resonated with me the most out of this impressive body of work were the elements of play and engagement with audience through a sort of play in the space with the work. See saws of course are objects of our childhood affections and as they state, a dying breed- due to risk mitigation in playground and public spaces.

Something else Madeleine mentioned was an unexpected response they receive through the presenting of the work and that is the gift of eloquence of the riders- especially children. This is what I love about working with children, the directness, honesty and enthusiasm in approaching work and often their willingness to participate and experience it. Where I can meet them is at the point of tension when they are unsure about approaching (some, not all) or participating, or they aren’t sure what is expected of them in the space, I love the opportunity to support them in their initial tentative moments and have literally seen children transform and become so empowered when engaging in work.

Pivot is a fabulously rendered, engaging and thought provoking public art experience.

Paola Ibarra

Tape Mosaic

Paola is a former MAPS student at RMIT. I stumbled up on her work online. I love this as a way to work with kids and community. I love its colour, simplicity and its abstract form. Like Odnak, it is a work that begins as an empty blank wall or space and comes into being through the act of participation.

This project invited community members to create a Collaborative artwork. On the surface, every participant left a mark representing themselves as an integral part of the broader community.

Participants followed three guidelines, which are: All lines should be straight / One line can not cross another / The design is abstract (no letters, no objects).

I also seek to empower children through my work through the act of physical participation and creative action. In writing this the similarities between my Mo-Scape mosaic scape and the Tape Mosaics just occurred to me!

These works are also readily reproduce-able. In different locations they can adapt to the site. They drawn similarities with Briony Barr’s expanded drawing works and the use of coloured tape as a medium is a great choice for it’s ease of use, it’s semi-permanence, colours and availability. Children love using tape (I think everyone loves using tape!) and it’s bonus is it develops fine motor skills, which also in my work speaks of empowerment, acts of kindness and care.

Measuring the Universe

Roman Ondak

Measuring the Universe took place over the course of nearly three months at MoMA, and the accumulation of thousands of measurements formed a thick, ragged black band that encircled the gallery walls. Ondák himself was the first to be measured.

Measuring the Universe stems from Ondak’s interest in blurring the boundaries between art and everyday life. “The idea is taken from a habit of parents to measure children,” he explains, which he does in his own home with his two sons. “I was thinking about this very peripheral and marginal moment of everyday life to be expanded and…transformed to the context of the exhibition.”2 He was also thinking about how these marks of growth indicate time’s passage, and how as we age, our experience and understanding of time, and of the world itself, changes. As the title Measuring the Universe suggests, it is through our own scale that we measure the world.”

I love this. It it poetic and layered. Another reading is to see the fragility and bonds of human existance on a universal scale. How similiar we all are! We are reduced to a black mark on the wall, a simple measurement. A symbol of human connectedness.

Ondák suggests that the participatory nature of Measuring the Universe fosters people’s connection with the work: “For them this might…represent the simple fact that with the most archaic means you can create a complex image, which can compete with the most contemporary high-tech media. And they are part of it.”3. My practice seeks to engage a series of simple objects and forms that through participation, foster a more complex or dynamic relationship.

This work also interests me for it’s reproducability. This could be placed in 10 different galleries with 10 different results. This is a fact that the artist embraces. “I’m trying to use forms which don’t have such a stable position….So this is a type of work which can have a certain fluidity in terms of appearance.” I love it’s minimality, its organic nature and the fact that it appears differently when viewed from across the room as it does up close when you can see the detail of the participants names.

I can’t imagine at this stage of my art career to be give 3 empty gallery walls at MOMA with no idea of what might unfold and a fixed outcome in sight! I guess that is what test works are fore! Covid-19 quarantine has taught me this!