About the project

We are exploring the role of art in the governance of the population. Through an innovative research design based on Actor-Network Theory and Governmentality Studies, our project aims to investigate the role of artistic practices in the establishment of specific technologies of government. Our basic research questions are:

  • How are artistic practices included in contemporary urban governance?
  • What actor-networks are active in this inclusion?
  • What governmental technologies are constituted in these processes?

Art has a long-established interrelation with the production of values, beliefs and authority in liberal societies. Since the 18th-century, art has been a crucial aspect of what Jürgen Habermas has called the “Public Sphere,” producing what for him was an “appreciation [of art which] required a certain amount of training—whereby the ‘accomplished’ appropriation […] heightened the appreciative ability itself.” For Habermas, this cultivation of aesthetic sensibilities was an integral part of the development of democracy. We are mapping the ways in which this “appreciative ability” relates to governance and the public sphere in contemporary society.

Since the 1970s, European Welfare States have actively sought to manage art by establishing cultural ministries endowed with a systematic collection of actions and measures. A string of cultural policy goals and instruments have been developed across Europe, which at first concentrated on increasing the accessibility of excellent art, broadly understanding the management of art as a development of the citizens appreciative abilities. More recently, however, the governmental management of the arts have produced two new overarching foci: social cohesion (often in relation to migration) and economic development. We are looking at how this shift produces new tensions and emphases in the public management of the arts. We do this by mapping how art is approached by the state through the establishment of policy agendas and instruments of various kinds, and how these instruments then are translated and employed by artists and other agents of the art world.

Our approach will thus address the relationship between art and governmentalization on both theoretical and practical levels. By tracing how a local site of artistic practice connects to other sites through vehicles and conduits (carrying documents, materials, people, ideas, concepts, etc.), it will be possible to discover whether actor-networks solidify certain relations of power in ways that affect movements and identities in the social world. We will thereby be able to investigate the actor-networks of the art world that are actively included in city governance in Malmö as well as the technologies of government that this inclusion creates and mandates. The project will also be a contribution to the study of the changing role of art in contemporary society.

In our pilot study, we explored the ways in which artistic and cultural activities are used to promote active citizenship and social cohesion in the city of Malmö [link to paper]. In the spring of 2016, we mapped the various governmental actors involved in the funding, management and governance of the art world in Malmö. Relying on Actor Network Theory, we traced policy agendas through local, regional, national and supra-national channels. We presented our findings at the annual conference of The European Society for Literature, Science and the Arts [link to conference paper]. Later in the spring and over the summer, we began to explore governmental technologies of the art world in terms of metrologies. We focused on the funding mechanisms and published our findings in the conference proceedings of the annual conference of The European Network on Cultural Management and Policy (ENCACT) [link to publication]. At the moment, we are writing up the research we have done so far on the metrologies of art management for publication in a scholarly journal, as well as preparing a paper for the seventeenth annual meeting of the Foucault Circle. Our paper has the working title “On Veridiction: Metrologies of Art in the European Welfare State.” We are also engaging in empirical research, currently with the Malmö City Theatre.

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