Art, and real life

Artformutations is a project that is subtitled as “when management questions contemporary mutations through art”. Perhaps this subtitle is the core of the project. Questioning what ‘management’, ‘questioning’, ‘contemporary’, ‘mutations’, and ‘art’ are is a prerequisite for discussing the issue the sentence brings together.

The proposition that ‘management’, ‘contemporary’, ‘mutations’ actually exist in a validatable sense generates an unease when in the hands of artists. The urge to disentangle terms that otherwise, in their entanglement are taken for granted and valued, is huge. Or it ought to be huge as art is here to disentangle in order to create space for new representations instead of the permutations ‘management’ suggests as the preferred way of dealing with –for instance—staff resisting change.

At a concluding conference[1] at the Paris-Dauphine university that hosted the project, experiences came together, and as a consequence art met academia and the world of organisational management. In such a circumstance, the unavoidable controversies show themselves as the fuel of inspiring discussions.

It starts with the unease felt by artists present to be the object of research and –in the artist’s perception perhaps worse—of conclusions drawn.

While one of the justified warnings sounded to not oversimplify things related to management and organisation, the simplification of ‘art’ was unavoidable, if only as a precondition to be able to talk about something within the confines of a grand conference room at Paris-Dauphine.

“Art is everywhere,” was an intervention of one of the participating artists, who stressed the complexity generated by his inability to separate ‘artist’, ‘artistic creation’ and ‘artefact’. “Art is everywhere in organisations also,” he added. Which makes research difficult. The urge of the academic to discern between art and not-art is dominant.

There is one way to at least picture what art can do in an academic way. My guess is that it is true that art is everywhere, even in an organization. This makes the issue of accessibility an interesting focal point of research. In the world of managed organisation, the appreciation and use of art is not widely spread. The chance to use art in daily goings-on seems to be confined to those in management positions. If art is everywhere, the research question is who benefits.

Subsequently we can then look into how –for instance—art can be used in resisting the change management propose? Now it seems academia is interested in how management is utilized to be more effective in moving people towards new goals, or towards the exit for that matter.

Interestingly the conference did offer insight in a project aimed at documenting through theatre the resistance of personnel against the closure of the lingerie workshop they made bras in. That however is a feat after the managerial fact.

Art has always questioned contemporary mutations. Interestingly the mutations we need to question now are those in the way the world is represented and –subsequently- exemplified. Representations and exemplifications have always been self-serving to very specific groups. They require constant questioning if only because exclusivity that has been brought into art and many other modes of representation does not work anymore. The challenges we all face require an artful representation and exemplification that helps those who are now disengaged from these challenges to become meaningfully connected.

‘Contemporary mutations’ require not just ‘management’ to ‘question’ them. They require stories, performances, pictures, sounds, rhythms and riffs that move all into an inclusive approach. Perhaps the main answer that managerial questioning contemporary mutations in an artful way emits is that these mutations require a tribal approach to management, rather than the current regal one.

One outcome of Artformutations is a magazine called DISFUNCTION. Gain access through:


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