— Cultural Sources of Newness

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The closing event of my research program on artistic interventions in organizations at the unit Cultural Sources of Newness was the “Artful research conversation: Cultural Embeddedness of Artistic Interventions,” December 18-19 2014 at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center. Building on the unit’s past seven years of multistakeholder research in this area, I invited 20 artists, scholars and intermediaries from various European countries, Korea and the US. My idea was that we would elicit from lived experiences in diverse contexts the elements of the national, organizational, professional culture (or other relevant cultural constellation) that affect the way artistic interventions are envisaged, implemented and discussed in different settings. For example, to what extent does the way the relationship between the arts and business is traditionally seen in a country influence what is considered desirable and possible in an artistic intervention? And what is the impact of the culturally shaped expectations and practices in relationships between management and employees? So many conversations flowed during the two days and two evenings that it will take some time to digest them, and each participant will make sense of the experience in different ways; here are a few of the thoughts occupying me the day after.

 

Engaging in an artful research conversation

Engaging in an artful research conversation

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When I took a picture of the guests at the opening dinner for the “Culture Around” conference speakers and special representatives from the world of the arts tonight in Warsaw, Justyna, one of the organizers,  said “I know what you are going to do with them! I have read your blog!” Actually, I was just capturing the mood, but then I realized that she was right: this evening offered an opportunity to get back to collecting my thoughts during and after an interesting moment and sharing them in another post. And I recognized that decidedly, dinners trigger the new.

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Over lunch in Paris, during a break from reading a dissertation about creativity in research, I found myself reflecting on the connections between distance, anger and the new in academia. In the “Cultural sources of newness” research unit we point out that newness is a quality that is retrospectively attributed to an idea, a practice, or an object. Many things that are “new” are fleeting, and do not achieve the status of “newness.” But all new things are nevertheless significant for a moment, and may become a source of newness–or not–a shift that often depends on power relations. Three cases offered themselves to me during my lunch break, two of which entail anger, an ingredient I have not yet encountered in the literature on newness and innovation. I brought those two cases to lunch with me, then discovered a different one in the sunshine outside the restaurant. 

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Conferences are interesting places for checking out how newness is generated. The professional purpose of these events is to share new research ideas and collect feedback in the hopes of getting their value recognized in the academic community. In other words, it is about establishing the newness of our work as scholars. The interactions between participants and with our materials in this process various kinds of moves between new and old. The EGOS 2014 symposium in Rotterdam this week, specifically in the track “Art, Design, and Organization” (ADO) offered a fruitful platform for observing and contributing to these moves.

Every year a new team of three ADO stream conveners develop a different approach to get us to walk the talk of combining art, design and organization in our process. As usual, all the participants had written and distributed our papers in advance, as required by EGOS. The conveners had sent us two kinds of instructions and one warning about the process they had designed for the 2.5 days: we were a) to prepare comments on the 4-5 papers in our subgroups and to look at the other papers in the track; b) to bring elements (e.g., image, object, recording) with which to introduce our paper in the opening session; and c) NOT to use Powerpoint presentation mode. Furthermore, they told us that the afternoon of the first day would be spent off-site at an arts school.

Pierre's Chair Installation

Pierre’s Chair Installation

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I think the new innovations will happen at a city scale.’ Daan Roosegaarde’s statement made me sit up and listen. The young Dutch designer gave his keynote speech ‘Innovation as a Dutch experience’ during LUCI City under Microscope conference last week in Rotterdam. In his presentation, just like in his work, he adressed well-known problems in poetic and witty ways. In his keynote, he presented his projects and design products wrapped in interesting, surprising and funny stories.

Roosegaarde

Daan Roosegaarde speaking at the LUCI City under Microscope conference Rotterdam

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It is hard to stick to New Year’s resolutions. Colleagues like Fabian Lempa  do not make it any easier by inviting me to a workshop he co-organized with Lilian Seuberling  entitled “Zwischen Freiheit und Norm!? Theater in Therapie und Unternehmen.” But I am glad I decided to put aside the resolution not to work on weekends this year and made my way to the Berlin Free University’s Institute of Theatre Studies at 9am on Saturday (February 21). The workshop was organized in the context of the ERC-funded project “The Aesthetics of Applied Theatre,” directed by Prof. Matthias Warstat . I was intrigued by the provocative sets of apparent oppositions: freedom/norm and the use of theater in therapy/business.

The day’s program for the 17 participants was packed full: each of the four invited experts had an hour in which to explain and give us a feeling for their field of work, a panel discussion and world café. We talked through the lunch and coffee breaks, and were definitely ready for a glass of wine (and more conversations) by the evening. The project team will surely share their insights after they have worked through the recording of the day, here I simply provide a brief overview.

Organizers and experts of the workshop

Organizers and experts of the workshop

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Vier Referentinnen (die Mehrzahl weiblich) sitzen an jedem Tisch, vier solche Tische sind im Quadrat im großen Saal aufgestellt. Die Vier vertreten eines von vier Feldern der Kritik – Sozialkritik, Kunstkritik, Kulturkritik und alle Varianten von Kritik, die im Internet verbreitet werden. Die Frage, auf die sie in kurzen Statements reagieren sollen, ist immer die gleiche: Wie verändert sich Ihr Kritikfeld? Was hat das mit den anderen Kritikfeldern zu tun? Ist es gerechtfertigt, von Metamorphosen der Kritik zu sprechen?

 

Metamorphosen: WZB

Photo: Ludmilla Morozowa-Buss

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Dr. Cho Hyunjae, the 1st Vice Minister for Culture, Sports, and Tourism of Korea, welcomed the participants to the ARCOM conference at the Olympus Hall in Seoul on November 20 2013 with strong messages: “Art can make business dance and stimulate innovation.” “Organizations need creative kicks” because “corporations need to learn to stimulate the emotions of employees,” so “Korea is seeking ways to bring down barriers between art and business.” (quotations via translation by an  interpreter at the conference)

The ministry had contacted Professor Jeon Suhwan in 2011 to create ARCOM at the Korea National University of Arts to develop activities that would help the world of organizations and the world of the arts learn how to work together in new ways. For Professor Jeon, the experience with ARCOM has shown that, when given the opportunity, “many CEOs are interested in adopting art in their corporate environment” and their projects illustrate how “Korean companies are changing with the arts.” He believes that collaborations between arts and business can enable Korea to become a “creative economy.” And that the time has come for learning together globally.

Prof. Jeon presents ARCOM at Seoul conference

Prof. Jeon presents ARCOM at Seoul conference

Professor Jeon designed this conference to advance ARCOM’s objectives in two ways. Although there have been numerous artistic intervention projects in Korea these past few years, there has not yet been much research on the subject here, so he wanted this conference to present research from Europe, as well as additional cases from Asia.

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After two full days of presentations, interviews, and discussions here in Seoul, several features are emerging for us about how Koreans are learning from and with artistic interventions in organizations.

The fun and honor of being interviewed by poet and management professor Sim Bo seon, Kyun Hee Cyber University

The fun and honor of being interviewed by poet and management professor Sim Bo Seon, Kyun Hee Cyber University

  • The cases we have seen so far have all been in the IT sector–which may say something about the willingness of managers in this sector to embark on innovative approaches to innovation, but our sample is too small to generalize from.  It is not coincidental that in all of the companies the CEO or another manager is taking a course with Professor Jeon at the Korea National University of the Arts and they are all being coached by him in his role with ARCOM in designing their interventions. We are witnessing the birth of a Korean intermediary/producer of artistic interventions.
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It started with an email in May 2013 that looked like spam, with Asian symbols I did not recognize. Something prompted me to open it and to my surprise, it was from a South Korean researcher who had discovered my studies on artistic interventions and wanted to come to Berlin to interview me.  She explained that she was a researcher from ARCOM (Arts and Company), a non-profit agency at the Korea National University of Arts, that was dedicated to artistic interventions in organizations, with support from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. It was great to learn from this email that the reports I had written on the European Creative Clash project (2013) and the earlier TILLT Europe project (2009) were being read around the world, as well as the article I had published about intermediaries in the online journal Organizational Aesthetics based on the Creative Clash report (2011) .

Six weeks later, Soyoung Shin was in Berlin, after having visited my partners in the Creative Clash project, TILLT in Sweden  and before travelling onwards to conexiones improbables in Spain, and ending her trip in London to meet Giovanni Schiuma. Never have I been interviewed by someone who had read my work so thoroughly! After hours of talking at the WZB, I invited her and her photographer to join me with David and Emma Vidal, an artist visiting from Paris, for a picnic in the park of Schloss Charlottenburg, so that she could continue her questioning. She mentioned that ARCOM was hoping to organize an international conference later this year, would I be able to come?

Soyoung Shin from ARCOM joins us for picnic at Schloss Charlottenburg July 2013

Soyoung Shin from ARCOM joins us for picnic at Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin, July 2013

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