When Art Becomes an Emotional Burden

Monday, July 14, 2014: 11:15 AM
Room: Booth 57
Oral Presentation
Målfrid Irene HAGEN , School of Economy and Social Sciences, Previously affiliated to Buskerud University College, Kolbotn, Norway
Art influence our emotions, usually positively. However, art may also appear as offending and become a burden. Here I discuss so-called “offending art”, defined as; art with improper sexual, violent or blasphemous content. I use empirical examples from my PhD-thesis (2011) and new observations. My thesis reveals different practices for corporations collecting art in four countries, including the USA and Norway. Although related cultures, the policy for collecting art diverges regarding offending art. While most of the American corporations express that they avoid art that can be experienced offending by employees and visitors, the Norwegian corporations are more liberal. Although most art in the Norwegian collections are not offending, they also contain offending artworks that creates emotional reactions among employees, who experience this art as a burden. Due to the emotional impact on employees and visitors corporations have had to remove artworks from public areas, for example a painting regarded blasphemous. An artwork still hanging contains a digital text about sexual abuse and is described by employees as depressing. The employees have got used to it and suppress their emotional reactions. Corporate collectors can easily avoid offending art, as the American collectors in my study. The Norwegian corporations express that they like to show their art interest and support art. They also like to appear as democratic organizations and will probably not risk being accused for censoring art. Sometimes art seems prioritized on the cost of people. This applies also to commissioned art. Some new paintings in a governmental building in Oslo show falling paper and skeletons between flying buildings. Employees experience the artworks as an emotional burden, because they give associations to the terrorist attack on the government buildings in 2011. Seemingly there is a gap between fear of art censorship and consideration to employee emotions worth examining.