In The Spotlight: Alexandra Lawson


Traditionally, when we visit an art gallery we expect to simply view the objects on display; it is assumed that we will not be allowed to touch or interact with the exhibitions. Social Art—otherwise known as participatory art—is one way that artists are attempting to challenge this idea. Social Art creates social conditions that invite viewers to physically engage and interact with the creative process of an artwork. As a result, the viewer’s role transforms from spectator to participant allowing them to act alongside the artist as an author and creator of the artwork.

Toowoomba-based artist Alexandra Lawson explores various ways of using Social Art to encourage participation. From cafes to exhibition spaces, postcards to smartphones, Lawson’s work utilises everyday objects, spaces and activities to facilitate opportunities for her audience to reflect on and share their thoughts with others.

Lawson’s work I Value You (2014) plays on the act of sending letters. Placed in a gallery space, a shelf holding hand-printed postcards with the words ‘I value you’ is placed next to a plinth that resembles a post box. Participants are instructed to use the postcards to write to someone they value and then put them into the ‘post box’. Once the exhibition has finished, Lawson then sends the postcards to the addressed person. By addressing their postcard to a person they value, Lawson encourages the participant to consider their emotional values. I Value You transforms the gallery into a space for reflection and contemplation; a space that gives the participants a moment to themselves and an opportunity to reach out to someone who has impacted their life.



‘I Value You’ (2014) (installation view). Image by Alexandra Lawson on her website.


‘I Value You’ (2014) (installation view). Image by Alexandra Lawson on her website.


Away from the traditional gallery space, Lawson’s work Experimental Breakfast (2014) invites participants to eat alone at a selected local café. Lawson gives the participant a ticket to present to the staff, who in exchange gives them an envelope which contains a notebook and request: to write something personally reflective in the notebook. Each new participant adds to the notebook, leaving their story for the next participant to read. Lawson uses the everyday activity of eating breakfast to facilitate a larger conceptual project inviting participants to spend a moment alone, away from everyday distracts, to reflect while eating breakfast in a public space. At the same time, Lawson’s instructions encourage the participant to experience Experimental Breakfast both as a contributor and as a viewer of a collective experience.


‘Experimental Breakfast'(2014). Image by Alexandra Lawson on her website 

Lawson’s work continuously pushes us to contemplate our values, self-awareness, and asks us to share our thoughts with others. Her works facilitate an opportunity for its participants set outside of their comfort zone to express themselves through everyday activities. Lawson engages and fully immerses her audience in the creative process through works that become a collective experience.

Danielle Harvey

Find out more about Lawson’s work here. Lawson is also co-director of artist run initiative, RAYGUN PROJECTS. Located in Toowoomba, Queensland, RAYGUN facilities a space for international and Australian artists who deal with social and participatory art. Check out RAYGUN’s upcoming projects at

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