Artists in Offices, Cultural Institutions and Compromise

Monday, 16 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Saara LIINAMAA, Acadia University, Canada
This paper advances ‘theoretical interjection’ as a way to cultivate stronger dialogues between contemporary theoretical strands from two fairly different disciplines: sociology and art history. Specifically, I am interested in how each struggles to frame and interpret the cultural dimensions of critique, using the example of the role of artistic critique within cultural institutions. Specifically, my case study centres on ‘artists in offices’ (Adler 1979)—professional visual artists who work in critical, conceptual traditions and hold tenure-track jobs at universities. While working through how both disciplines grapple with how to assess the critical content of the work of art, this paper weaves together an understanding of critique as more resilient than field theory can account for, but more tempered than aesthetic theory dreams. This paper pursues this wider problematic in three parts. First, this paper modifies Boltanski and Chiapello’s (2006) version of artistic critique by tracing its current life within public cultural institutions and addressing contemporary contexts of creativity. Second, drawing on interviews with artists, policy documents, and art works, I construct artistic critique as a compromise-relation within circuits of production, circulation and consumption. Third, I develop three dimensions of artistic critique as compromise: mutual concession, recombination and vulnerability. These features can act in concert effectively, but the sustainability of critique becomes severely limited when the first two dimensions are jeopardized.