(People! Practice Participating in Participatory Projects, Please.)
Naoco Wowsugi

Activation on November 17

“Why are artists always seen as the leaders or organizers? Why can’t you be an artist by being a participant?”
— Naoco Wowsugi

In 2016, Naoco Wowsugi pondered how to produce profoundly promising participatory projects and initiated P.P.P. (Participating Participatory Practice). The project unfolded in secrecy because if the initiative were publicly revealed, the genuineness of the engagement might be compromised.

Through P.P.P., Wowsugi experienced numerous participatory projects from the critical perspective of both a leader and a follower. This participation involved activities such as: writing contemplative comments and poems on a large quantity of post-it notes; bravely mingling, singing, and holding hands with other attendees; tasting every article of food and drink in sight; applying skills gained from both BFA and MFA experiences to artistic workshops; and touring, rallying, and protesting—all while rocking an array of custom T-shirts. Wowsugi’s enthusiastic participation made significant contributions to the success of these artworks.

P.P.P. informed Wowsugi’s approach to community-engaged art by emphasizing hands-on experience, collective acts of care, and sharing resources with local communities. This transformation turned Wowsugi into a mutual aid advocate within these communities, expanding the artist’s role into a more fluid one and blurring the line between an artist and an engaged citizen.

As part of Department of Transformation: Groundwork at Canal Projects, Wowsugi presents this project publicly for the first time and offers its example as a tool for others to use. P.P.P.P.P.P. invites people of all persuasions to practice prolific participation, paving productive pathways for their own particular creative powers.

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About Department of Transformation

Naoco Wowsugi is a community-engaged artist who lives and works in Washington, DC. Wowsugi’s cross-disciplinary projects range from portrait photography, participatory performance, and sound healing, to horticulture, exploring the nature of belonging and inclusive community building while they highlight and fortify everyday communal and interpersonal identities. Wowsugi’s art practice blurs the lines between being an artist and an engaged citizen.