As a theatre director I have been confronted for years with the questions of bringing a diverse group of professionals together, forming them and bringing them into line. This always included leaving sufficient room for reaction possibilities to new ideas, changes of direction and revision of decisions taken. Large groups of people have always been and are affected by these processes, who have to initiate production and implementation measures within temporary production processes that are sometimes difficult to stop, change or revise. Nevertheless, the “Theater” operating system has always shown itself to be extremely capable of realizing the motto “The rag must be high”. And this mostly in such a way that the addressees get no idea of the possibly chaotic, fragile, little linear processes of the coming into being of the visible. The principle
“Develop Vision” –> “Materialize Vision in Model” (Stage Model / Production Concept) –> “Present and Share Vision” (Communication)–> “Realize Vision” (Testing)–> “The Product” (End Product) –> “Product Sharing” (Dissemination) –> “Assessing the Product” (Classification) –> “Sales of the Product” (Delivery)–> Developing New Visions
is accompanied by a series of shocks, which only in extreme cases lead to interruption, rarely to an interruption of the process as outlined here. This production process, which has been going on in exactly the same way for a long time, mysteriously survives all changes in the self-image of social contexts in production companies. After many years of work in these contexts, I moved to the art education sector and took over the management of a complex department with the training areas dance theatre and film, working as a member of the university management on the foundation of the young art school, including the move into a new building area. As a member of the university management, I also am responsible for the cross-sectional task of building up stable internationalisation activities within the framework of a decidedly oriented strategy.
In this area of my work there are tasks similar to those in the theatre operating system, especially with regard to taming the factors of uncertainty and the unknown. On the other hand, however, new questions arise here, above all with regard to the allocation of artists to future fields of activity, the appropriate structuring of training offers, and the self-image of an art education institution acting on behalf of the state and financed by the public sector.
These two fields of activity coagulate in a topic that has an eminent influence on the discourse of art education and practice: the role art and artists want and should play in the world and in society, and the conditions which are necessary to expand the understanding of the role of the arts and artists accordingly.
WHAT ART CAN
Making art is always associated with claims of relevance, making art always presents itself as a process of difference and defends itself against appropriation. A solution to the problems of the necessary coupling of art and the world seems to offer new fields such as “creative industries” or management areas that have a proximity to art, to artists, to the classification and exploitation of art products and practices, without practicing cheap appropriations.
However, these areas rather do not appeal to artists, generate defensive reflexes that originate from a very own self-image that oppositionally positions the arts and contexts of exploitation.
This is why a different path is being taken: the arts generate practices, methods and activity structures that should urgently be made accessible to fields other than traditional art. Concepts are needed that the artists pick up from their creative disposition and project them onto fields that seem to be occupied by non-artistic, even anti-artistic practices (business models, business practices, management practices, exploitation and usage practices). Artistic processes are to be understood as privileged forms of access to and experience of reality. New principles for assuming responsibility can be derived from this.
Following this thesis, an understanding of leadership is developed and established that follows that of artistic action: non-linear, non-rhythmic, anticyclical, disruptive and holistic. This can be combined with Dirk Baecker’s 1thoughts on the field of activity of managers.
WHAT DO MANAGERS DO?
If managers do something that enables others to coordinate their work among themselves, then artistic thinking would open up and expand some scope here.
If modern management works on a self-image that regards uncertainty absorption as essential and turns away from the rigid schematic model of leadership, then this would be a point of commitment between art and management: In organizations that rely on uncertainty absorption, intelligence arises that consists of “acknowledging the uncertainty of any decision, disclosing it and sharing it between decisions in a smaller or larger circle. It not only communicates the certainty that decisions can be made, but also the uncertainty under which each individual decision stands and which can be managed in one way or another”.
WHAT CAN ARTISTS DO?
For the side of art, I take Frances Whitehead, artist and activist, and her definition of what artists can/know. This definition is intended as a reference framework for the following considerations.
According to this, artists:
• synthesize various facts, goals and references
• produce new knowledge
• Solve problems inherent in the process
• develop and show, initiate and implement, design and implement
• act proactively/not reactively: initiate -> correct -> revise/negotiate
• take individual responsibility for meaning, effect, consequence of work
• dealing with cultural values
• working in intangible economies
• deal with asymmetric data areas
• making the implicit explicit = making the invisible visible
• openness and responsiveness in principle
A change in the meaning of the concept and use of “arts management” is thus imminent. The above skills are abilities to “manage”. Artists are no longer treated as subjects to be managed, but now management itself is closely linked to the management-related competencies of artistic action. Art and artistic action then lose their object or product character and become a general format of action that provides solutions for fundamental questions of life on planet earth. In this sense, artists are understood as experts in creating spaces of freedom, in which ideal models for ideal conditions are developed. This kind of freedom mobilizes creative processes for something new. From the finding that artists are generally self-organized and self-organizing ego companies whose power to create something new arises from their highly process-oriented actions, the follow-up question arises: Do the artists really make use of these abilities? Answering “No” on top of that creates the need for action, which is announced and demarcated here. The boundary that is alluded to is that between species (bad) and bad (good), as Alan Kaprow has tried to provoke.
THE CONFERENCE «STATE OF THE ARTS»
A conference entitled “State of the Arts” was held at the ZHdK on 5 and 6 October 2017, the contributions of which essentially confirmed the thesis.
Experts from Europe, the United States, Singapore, Hong Kong and Mainland China will meet to discuss issues related to arts management in the broadest sense. In the narrower sense, however, a topography of this field was begun. On one hand the traditional areas of classical arts management (Pratt, Huang Hai, Sun Man) were considered, on the other hand new forms of artistically motivated action in terrain that cannot be attributed to the traditional concept of artistic production/doing (Backes, Weckerle, Grand, Martel). The narrow definition of the claim contained in the term “state of the arts”, namely that a “state of the arts” is conceivable and that it means no less than the enthronement of artistic procedures (see above), refers to the question of what artistic thinking, procedure and action could mean for the management of the most diverse fields of activity in politics, business and society. The term “artistic practice in unrelated fields” stems from this context of argumentation.
Following on from this, the research was continued for examples from the practice of artists who prove the extension of the conceptual field.
CASE: FRANCIS WHITEHEAD
Frances Whitehead calls her project “embedded artists”. Her project serves me as a concrete proof of the claim that artists are prepared to develop new role models:
“My question is, how do you change the culture, and what do artists know that can contribute to this[change]?” she said. By mapping out a knowledge claim for artists, Whitehead is re-framing long-held assumptions about what it means to be an artist while asking us to reconsider the notion that artistic practice is an inherently individualistic enterprise.
The above-mentioned conference was designed as a starting point and turning point for a view of “arts management” that focuses on institutional and organisational issues. “Cultural Leadership”, weakly translated as “leading in culture”, possibly better described as “leading through arts”, should serve as a matrix to illuminate the role of artists in areas that are not traditional fields and spaces of artistic practice (e.g. “traditional” is understood as “traditional”: Making theatre in theatres, making art in studios, exhibiting art in museums and exhibition venues of all kinds, producing films in studios, showing films in cinemas, producing operas and dance performances and showing in opera and dance houses, performing music in concert halls, etc.). Fields that could be meant are “migration/ demographic change”, “ageing societies”, “urbanisation”, “citizenship”, “politics”, “business models”, “business management”. This initial situation can have enormous relevance for art education, indeed it could be its future. Future artists are called upon to develop role models that deviate from the traditional models of artists that are formed institutionally and culturally. This means that the disciplinary should no longer be understood as the ideal path to the profession, but rather as a field of practice: i.e. an unlimited terrain for activities that can be derived from the exercise, expandable, at best ad infinitum. Artistic forms of action are carriers of new, inefficiently – and economically – bound forms of the new – creation of social/communicative contexts. Through an artistically shaped approach to these contexts, an added value (in the sense of an improvement of the world) is created.
Artistic assets are something like the basis for leadership. This “extended claim to leadership” could follow what Hans Ulrich Obrist formulated when Cuban artist Tania Bruguera ran for president:
“If there was ever a time that the world needed artists, it is now. We need their radical ideas, visions, and perspectives in society. I trace this idea back to the British artist, educator and provocateur John Latham, who dedicated his life to creating a worldview that would unify science and the humanities. He believed the world could only be changed by those willing and able to conceive of reality in a holistic and intuitive manner. The individual best equipped to do this, Latham suggested, is the artist.”
This reflects the conviction that “radical ideas, visions and perspectives” are trend-setting forces of artists that must be made accessible to the world. This radically reverses the view that artists and their art are accessories, reflective objects or simply “beautiful”. Obrist assigns art a formative, directional function that can be defined from its core area. The will and the ability to perceive reality holistically and intuitively is thus described here as the core area of leadership.What “holistic” and “intuitive” mean will have to be clarified in the following.
Summary “Artistic Forms of Action” (Whitehead, Obrist)
• Production of new knowledge
• process-immanent problem-solving
• Synchronicity of develop/show, initiate/execute, design/implement
• Proactivity: initiate -> correct -> revise/negotiate
• Individual assumption of responsibility for meaning, effect, consequence of the work
• Dealing with cultural values
• Working in intangible economies
• Dealing with asymmetric data areas
• Making the implicit explicit = making the invisible visible
• openness and responsiveness in principle
• Radicality of ideas, visions and perspectives
• Holistic/intuitive relationship to reality
From this I derive the following statements:
–> Artists should be enabled to use their powers as managers. “Change the circumstances to make them usable for your purposes.”
–> Artists should learn to expand the field of their activities: “Identify fields that need artistically motivated action”
–> Artists should become aware of the special skills they possess: “methods and processes of working”.
–> Artists should be motivated to use their forms of access to the world and to the facts for everything possible.
–> Artists can take on leadership positions through: extraordinary artistic practice by mixing it with organizational themes, by linking art with social and political practice.
EMBEDDED ART PRACTICES
Towards a new approach of managing things through Arts
Identifying and solving problems through artistic methods seems to have a high potential. Instead of creative economies/industries, the combination of creative economies and creativity should be focused. This means that it is less about value creation than about the practical impact of artistic approaches on the world. The directions meant and understood by the field of “embedded art pratices” seem to me to be highly promising and trend-setting.
The world is actually more comprehensive than the economic quantification of artistic-creative activities and their market relevance.
We are turning away from the economic side, which is seen as the silver bullet in political audibility, and look into the question of what could be an artistic approach to the complex control issues in the world.
In a conference to follow we will focus on the fields of leading through arts/ embedded artists. Goal is modelling curricula for this approach to artistic practices.
1 Dirk Baecker, (1997) Durch diesen schönen Fehler mit sich selbst bekannt gemacht: Das Experiment der Organisation. In: Hijikata T., Nassehi A. (eds) Riskante Strategien. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften S, 36f
2 Alan Kaprow, The Education of the Un-Artist,Part II, in: Essays on the blurring of art and life,1993
3 One aim of the conference was a redefinition of “arts management”. As a field of creative artistic practices dealing with questions of leadership, of decisionmaking and of managing it includes practices of mediation and paedagogy as well as practices of artistic approaches towards social political and economic issues. The conference was an introduction and starting point for further developments of a field of program offerings overlaying the disciplinary structure of the arts universities of nowadays.
« A new policy object: the cultural economy ( the challenge of including ‹cultural policy › and the
‹creative economy› and the new policies for new times )
“Arts Management” as a platform for diverse activities performed by artists is a subject beyond the fields of “creative economiesindustries” and the “economative turn” of artistic practice. Andy Pratt ( Director, Centre for Culture & the Creative Industries, City University of London
« Reflections on Funding of Major Arts Organizations in Hong Kong », Sun Man Tseng ( Adjunct Professor,
The Education University of Hong Kong )
« Phase XI – Staging Stories : The Power of Creative Industries and how artists will change the world
whether with or without management, leadership, effectiveness and efficiency », Christoph Backes
( Germany’s Federal Government’s Centre of Excellence for the Cultural and Creative Industries,
« The current state of Chinese Cultural Policy and its Impact », Huang Hai ( STA, Shanghaï Theater Academy,
« From training managers towards dealing with uncertainties – the role of arts universities », Christoph Weckerle ( ZHdK )
« TCA’s model », Chen Chunhsi ( TCA, Taipei )
« Art Entrepreneurship », Simon Grand ( Saint Gall University )
« The Social Artists : the role of social medias », Frédéric Martel ( ZHdK )
« US Arts Fundings’ SWOT : strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats », Claire Rice ( Executive
Director, Arts Alliance Illinois, US )
« About Shelter, an artists training program to transform performers to theatre makers », Liu Xiaoyi ( Artistic director of Emergency Stairs’ theater cie, Singapore )
« Cultural leadership : How to nurture, evaluate and find new arts managers? », Danny Yung ( Zuni, Hong
4 Frances Whitehead is a civic practice artist bringing the methods, mindsets, and strategies of contemporary art practice to the process of shaping the future city. Connecting emerging art practices, the discourses around culturally informed sustainability, and new concepts of heritage and remediation, she develops strategies to deploy the knowledge of artists as change agents, asking, What do Artists Know?
Questions of participation, sustainability, and culture change animate her work as she considers the surrounding community, the landscape, and the interdependency of multiple ecologies in the post-industrial city. Whitehead’s cutting-edge work integrates art and sustainability, as she traverses disciplines to engage with engineers, scientists, landscape architects, urban designers, and city officials in order to hybridize art, design, science, and civic engagement, for the public good. Whitehead has worked professionally as an artist since the mid 1980’s and has worked collaboratively as ARTetal Studio since 2001. She is Professor of Sculpture + Architecture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago
The fact that this brings us to a fundamental aesthetic-philosophical discussion of the peculiarity of art suggests that we should take a closer look at a work that Christoph Menke illuminates in his essay “Kraft”, Herder’s work, which contrasts aesthetic capacity with rationality: “Just as thinking is not the first thing about people, neither is the beautiful insight the beginning of aesthetics. Man, the animal, feels first darkly himself, then vividly himself, and lust and pain darkly in himself, then lust and pain clearly out of himself, and now he recognizes only”. Herder claims that there is an opposition between rational, generalizable knowledge and dark, irrational individual life force, which finds its expression in the aesthetic imagination and imagination. In doing so, he postulates a conflict in the modern subject that cannot be resolved harmoniously. Menke’s diagnosis is, however, that it is precisely in this way that he hits upon the signature of modernity, whose hallmark is precisely this division between philosophy on the one hand and aesthetic experience on the other. This finding can be made fruitful for our discussion. (see below)
7 In her lectures and research projects, the artist Anne Douglas has dealt intensively with the subject of “artists as leaders”. It focuses on improvisation and other artistic practices as relevant for leadership skills and undermines any form of artists’ enslavement with its arguments and instead gives them competences that go far beyond the marginalising limits of the discussion about the potentials of artistic processes.
8 cf. Byproduct, On the Excess of Embedded art Pratices/ Marisa Jahn editor, Toronto, 2010
This book presents texts from a avriety of artists, activists, curators, and interdisciplinary thinkers that interrogate projects by cultural practitioners “embedded” in industries, the government, and other non-art sectors.Working with the physical systems and symbolic languages of these institutions, these cultural agents develop projects -or “byproducts” – that produce meaning contingent on their hosts.