— Cultural Sources of Newness

Might an internship be a cultural source of newness?

The coordinator for Leonardo internships in Berlin called me last summer, urgently looking for someone to offer a placement for a student currently from Toulouse, originally from Slovakia. Since some of my case studies are in France, and the coordinator appealed so intensely to my commitment to the European dream, I accepted the responsibility. Katarina Masiarova started her internship with us in October. She had studied sociology, but not the field of business in society, and our research exposed her for the first time to the topic of artistic interventions in organizations. Not only the topic, also the research tools were new to her (EndNote and Microsoft Access), and she was surrounded by German speakers. Essentially, one might say that we were a cultural source of newness for her.

With guidance from our experienced student assistant, Martin Sauer, Katarina worked intensely on building our databases to document which organizations have experimented with which approaches and with which artists, and who is writing about them. All around the world (she did not find any in Slovakia, though). The field is growing quite rapidly, so there are many publications and websites to comb through, but details are scarce, so the task is demanding. Both Martin and Katarina tell me that they are frustrated about the many gaps that remain in the database. And I tell them that this lack of information, too, is a finding—and the reason that we are conducting case studies and surveys.

Katarina’s internship is drawing to a close. I asked her to contribute to the research unit’s blog about her learning experience from these three months. I enjoy her fresh and frank style of sharing insights and questions.   Ariane  


Thinking about artistic interventions

 Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art.      (Andy Warhol[1])

Choosing a citation from Andy Warhol to start my blog article is not a coincidence. Both his parents came from today´s eastern Slovakia, which makes him some kind of Slovak. I´m some kind of Slovak too, although I´ve recently spent 2 years in France.

My first choice for Leonardo internship was Finland. I was secretly hoping I would drink vodka and listen to heavy metal all day. Berlin was also not that bad option, you just replace vodka with beer and heavy-metal with currywurst. And the WZB was definitely the best place any former student of sociology would imagine his/her internship to be accomplished.

As the citation above maybe somehow evokes, I was working in research unit which deals with arts and businesses, precisely artistic interventions in (mainly business) organisations.

After almost 3 months of examining connections between those fields from various angles, I still have more questions than answers. But maybe it was the intention. I was always wondering if the real sense of science was in searching for questions more than searching for answers; that those answers we got are only an unintended outcome on the quest for more interesting questions.

I can think about possible benefits organisations may have from artistic interventions by looking closer to that Warhol´s citation above. But first I need to ask what being good in business actually means. Making money for yourself? Having sustainable policy? Keeping your partners and your customers satisfied? Making your employees feel useful and fulfilled? I think all those things contribute in making your business more succesfull. In this case, artistic intervention should be something that operates in those contexts and make them better. But what if Warhol meant being good in business not as being succesful, but being moral. Can art make businesses more moral?

At the first sight as I was looking at the cooperation between artists and organisations, it was clear to me: company wants to make money out of arts and artists want to make money out of company. This relationship (like any voluntary relationship in the world) has to be somehow profitable for both sides. But do organisations need more from art than just some advantage that can be in potential future transformed into financial benefit? And do artists need anything from organisations other than financial support? And should they need?

It seems to me that art and organisations speak different languages. Science seems to speak different language from both of them. Somewhere in between this art-organisational exchange might be some secret way of communication, some secret new language that scientists try to understand. But maybe they just interpret it, just try to translate it to their own language. Using methodology as their dictionary. It makes me think about how my way of thinking changed during the time I had to comunicate in 3 different languages with people from 3 different kinds of cultures in society. It had to be sometime then when I suddenly stopped thinking in languages; my thoughts no longer came to me in words, they just came in senses.

How can we evaluate artistic interventions in organisations in scientific way? What gives art value in organisational context? Essentially, value is relation. The shape of this relation creates value that out of this relationship doesn´t exist. If art had no relation to anybody, there would be no value in itself. Would it still be art? Is absence of relation also some kind of relation? Is absence of value also some kind of value?  May art  be something that essentially exists only for itself, some kind of ultimate anarchist who doesn´t care if people will appreciate him or what they will even think about him, or has it some responsibility to whom it was adressed or even to everyone who will ever perceive it? Can you throw the stone on art, if it doesn´t bring you something you can somehow evaluate?

Maybe everything in this world is just one big search for value, relation, ultimate language, whatever, some perfect evaluation system. Nothing will never escape from it, neither will art. Some can escape from it only without having any relation to anything. Therefore having no value means having ultimate value. Because extreme oposites are the synonyms.

I always thought life was some kind of art.

Maybe our lives are just the artistic interventions in this organisation called the universe.

And to evaluate our benefit is also as hard as to evaluate the benefit of artistic intervention in some organisation. But maybe it´s not that hard, maybe it´s simple.

And then… maybe being good in this „non-sense“ is the most fascinating kind of art.


[1] meanwhile on internet