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Not everyone is an artist

Interactive art is gaining ground – but whether it's Spencer Tunick's nudes or Antony Gormley's plinth, no masterpiece was ever created by committee

The rise of interactive art seems to make sense in our digital age. It seems only right that art, too, should twitter. And so the noughties saw the rise of art that involves real people – as many of them as possible. Spencer Tunick and Antony Gormley led the way in persuading volunteers to strip off or be cast in plaster, or stand on a plinth and be webcammed.

Some forms of interactivity are obviously good for art, as they are good for society. The more democratically ideas and information are shared, the more accessible art will be. Sites that allow artists to promote themselves without going through the rituals of the art world are great because for every dud who gets publicity through alternative channels, there is also the chance of raw genius sidestepping the institutions that force art and artists to conform to fashion and supposed good taste. In theory.

So democracy is great – except when it shapes the actual work of art. I do not believe a great work of art has ever been created by communal consensus, let alone by multiple editors. There will never be a wiki-masterpiece. This is because art, if it has any value at all, is the product of deep and often rationally incommunicable perceptions, and to try and explain or share those perceptions in a communally created artwork will negotiate and re-edit them to banality.

But, I hear you roar, there are obvious objections to that claim. What about devised theatre and the films of Mike Leigh? But the reason Leigh's pieces work so well is that talented actors are doing the interaction: what you are seeing is not a democratic free-for-all but an elite. Good art is the product of talent. All the forces in our culture that weaken our belief in talent deny this fundamental fact, but it always returns to haunt us.

Participatory art is a denial of talent. It panders to a cosy lie, that everyone is equally able to create worthwhile art. What chance have we of nurturing those rare wonders in our midst, the born artists, if we claim this infantile right to put on a badge that says "artist"? © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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