CO-CREATION, means or end?

Information gathered by Marianne Poncelet.

co-creation: definition

Generally speaking, co-creation is used to describe an artistic process that gathers artists, whether or not they belong to the same discipline, who wish to create a common work together. These so-called “multi-hand” artistic practices are not new. More recently, they have emerged within groups of artists who wish to think and produce together around chosen ways of living and creating, aesthetic, social or political commitments, etc.

Co-creations between artists are distinguished from practices that include participation or interaction with the spectator, with which they are not mixed, but which they may include.

Artists are defined as those through whom the changes and interactions occur, through whom the relationship is established. They have the capacity to break with the established order of things, to make a new order of relationships, to imagine the unexpected beyond the known limits and to create the new.

social impact of art

For a long time now, the artistic proposal has not been reduced to the sole relationship between the artist and his work. In a participative or co-creative approach, the artist intertwines his or her subjectivity with others, with subjectivities that he or she solicits, whether it be during the involvement of an audience, a public or when he intervenes in a neighbourhood, a prison or a hospital. Art comes out of its private circle, and this openness underlines a democratic advance. Art develops outside of cultural institutions in the mode of an abundant creativity that connects with life.


In a social context, the artist is divided between the expression of his art and the interactions on which this expression depends. The artist is both involved and challenged in a situation of co-creation. At this point, negotiation appears: when the artist enters a space (be it a neighbourhood, a hospital, a prison) and negotiates with himself the motivation that commits him to go to this place, when he invites an “audience” to share his creation and discusses it with them, when the participation of the audience forces him to question himself in order to negotiate the meaning of this event and successfully integrate it into the creative process.

Negotiation characterises artistic practice, which integrates various factors such as an audience, an institutional environment, an event, an encounter, etc., into an artistic proposal, whether it be theatrical, plastic, musical or other. In all cases, there is an artistic proposal and, behind it, an artist or a collective of artists who act. The process of negotiation is inherent to this proposal and constitutes it at its most fundamental.

When art integrates societal concerns, when artists make their creation depend on the interactions they provoke with certain audiences, for example with migrants, when creation takes on an increasingly relational dimension, one might ask the question of the very identity of the artistic function, which is diluted in the social. In what way does creation then remain properly artistic?


In fact, the artist does not lose himself in these confrontations and interpersonal transactions. On the contrary, he builds himself through them because they shed new light on his practice, they challenge him, they solicit him. All those who work in neighbourhoods, prisons or hospitals emphasise how productive these transactions are for the practice of their art. One director is aware that he would probably not have been interested in a particular work if he had not decided to work in a prison environment and if he had not had to negotiate his involvement. Another creator reminds us of the extent to which the work with autistic people reactivates strong issues in the history of theatre and wonders whether, without this work, he would have looked back on such a rich history. Another emphasises how his work in a company has led to the emergence of specific aesthetic forms and has been experienced as a real artistic adventure.

If the process is productive for the artists, it is also productive for the people and institutions involved in the artistic process. It allows people to discover something about themselves that they did not know. Such an approach leads to forms of depropriation and reappropriation that give a new vision of life. 

political laboratory

Art proposes moments of sociality. It is here that art reconnects with the question of politics, through its capacity to create new arrangements and new territories of life, in the face of the empty and invasive forms of markets and various purely utilitarian, often disembodied institutions. As such, it functions well as a political laboratory.

The creative artist discovers that his or her subjectivity merrily intermingles with other subjectivities, those he or she solicits when involving an audience or those who surprise him or her by the chance of a neighbourhood encounter. How could the artist create inside a hospital or a prison without his subjective dispositions being affected?

The artist makes an appointment with different, sometimes irreconcilable worlds. It is a way for him to deepen his art by confronting it with other practices and other environments. Co-creation would then be an art that unfolds outwards and discovers a certain truth in this confrontation and this openness that provokes and enriches.

However, co-creation cannot be considered as a socio-cultural animation. This would be to deny active art and its commitments its “raison d’être”. Socio-cultural animation proposes an education in art with the aim of emancipation. Co-creation broadens the artistic proposal and experiments with new ways of making art.

the co-creation process in "homelands, places of belonging"

Refugee artists in Belgium work in pairs with leaders of cultural associations on a common artistic work, after having received training on co-creation from artist trainers of the Menuhin Foundation. Each pair then offers participatory art workshops to various audiences. The pairs present their artistic creations during a series of public events as well as a final event that brings together all the stakeholders at the end of the journey around the theme “What does it mean to feel at home? “.

Making art more accessible to a wide range of (new) audiences is a goal that is now a top priority in the mission of most cultural centres today.

While in the past decades many efforts have been made to encourage new audiences that passively ‘consume’ art, today we see a new emphasis on involving audiences in a more active and participatory way. This is not only due to the desire to find new approaches to attracting new audiences, but also to the understanding of the importance of active participation in art for our own personal development and thus its beneficial impact on society as a whole.

Artistic co-creation is a practice that goes even further. In co-creation, participants do not just ‘participate’ in what already exists, but become (decision-makers) within the artistic process itself. This is when art really becomes a ‘common (play)ground’.

The advantages of this approach are many:

  • It gives non-professional individuals and local communities the opportunity to share the ‘power’ of art making.
  • It creates a space for dialogue and reflection on the role and meaning of art for us today, regardless of our background or artistic experience.
  • It helps participants to develop the individual and collective skills inherent in a co-creation process (sense of collaboration, trust, solidarity, creativity, self-esteem, problem solving, critical thinking, etc.)

The co-creation process allows people who do not know each other, or even distrust each other, to quickly feel connected. The process quickly creates a feeling of belonging to a group with a common objective: to create a work of art.

The actors interviewed emphasise the importance of expressing and listening to each other’s ideas in co-creation. Decisions are made in a democratic way. The participants become aware that the work is collective and therefore rich in the diversity of the participants.

The workshops are an opportunity to better understand the contributions of the different cultures brought by the participants, artists and mediators, to better understand the experiences of migrants and the points of view of each one on the central theme of the project which is “what does it mean to feel at home?

This project is an effective part of building an inclusive, intercultural and intergenerational society. It also enables the migrants’ artists to be valued in their artistic practice, to fight against prejudices and stereotypes and thus to fight against discrimination, which was the intended aim of the project.

The method of fluid organic decision-making in the artistic process

In the framework of the “Sharing All Voices” and “Voices for Tomorrow” projects of the International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation, Thierry Van Roy, Artistic Director, initiated a method of working with several groups of artists, based on the principle of “fluid organic decision”, and which was tested for six years in seven different countries each year, involving different audiences each time. This method also involves co-creation in the sense that the participating artists work as a group according to specific rules that bring out their talents.

The aim of this method is to decompartmentalise, open up and broaden creative abilities through group work, respecting specific rules.

This method is a powerful tool to develop the humanistic values of Yehudi Menuhin in a group, notably respect, non-violence and the blossoming of the individual through artistic creation, the search for harmony with oneself and the diversity of the world.

The method is aimed at artists and people who wish to work on the creative impulse independently of the field of application of their creativity. In practice, the group, through preliminary work, becomes an organic entity, with its own intelligence, its own dynamism, and its own creativity in addition to the individual creativity. It can be compared to a school of fish that pursues a group logic and not that of separate individuals.

By the principle of “organic decision-making”, the creation in the group is always led by one of the participants of the group, and this leadership is established in an organic and fluid way for a very brief moment or a longer experiment according to the creative responses of the other members: the one who gave the creative impulse at a certain moment leads the group, and he or she will immediately hand over the decision-making to another member in a fluid way, always keeping in mind that the individual must give priority to the group.

Relationships are based on specific rules:

  1. Mutual trust, responsibility for the group and its creative process
  2. Non-judgement: nothing is good or bad, it is about obeying creative impulses first and foremost, regardless of individual opinions.
  3. Non-verbal communication: no room for polemics, we experiment to decide; we work on ethereal, corporal, sensory communication.
  4. Putting oneself at risk in a creative field: indispensable, it broadens the horizons of one’s own creativity.
  5. Impermanence“: creation is never fixed: the method is based on the fluidity of time and form, and on the idea that a work can continue indefinitely. It is not the result that matters, but the process of creation, which becomes a process of personal transformation over time.
  6. Non-production: the process of creation starts from nothing and without a clear end goal except to create something following the logic of the entity that is the “group”.
  7. There may be “snapshots” (performances, moments of sharing), but this remains a never-ending “work in progress”.
  8. Adaptability: the creation of the group adapts fluidly and instantaneously to changes and unforeseen events: composition of the group, external or internal element or event.


The impact of such an approach is rich and is mainly on the level of the personal revaluation of the participants, which takes place on several levels: the awareness of one’s own creativity and that of the group, the sharing of one’s own values and those of others, the richness of interculturality, the strength of art as a vector of social change, the artistic quality of the professionals with whom they have worked, the participation in a quality show in front of a public that is generally seduced.

This method succeeds in creating harmonious and creative human microcosms. Its ambition is to transpose these results into the human macrocosm, human groups and organisations. The artist-ambassadors who have participated in this project are now bringing this new group dynamic into their personal practice.

There is also an expected impact at the level of the artist ambassadors on at least two aspects of their artistic life: on their creativity processes and on their ways of stimulating creativity processes with the audiences they will be working with: children, teenagers, artists in training, teachers, researchers, professionals of all types…

co-creation, means or end?

Co-creation is a process that profoundly transforms the people who participate in it, whether it is the artists themselves in terms of the expression of their own creativity, which is inspired and “boosted”, or whether it is the public engaged in the process by the artists, who discover that they possess artistic fibres that they did not know they had.

In view of the processes described above and the results obtained, co-creation is therefore much more a means than an end in itself, aiming to enrich those who initiate it as artists and those who participate as audiences. Co-creation is a powerful tool for awakening the personality through art, generating links and meaning, revealing potential within the individual and the group.


                 Evaluation reports by Dr. Dina Sensi for the IYMF

                   Organic fluid method by Thierry Van Roy

   Descriptive text of the Homelands project