— Cultural Sources of Newness

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Tag "artistic interventions"

There are at least three potential sources of newness offered by attending a PhD defence ritual abroad: you get to read a brand new thesis, you get to experience sparks of dissonance in the interaction, and you get to observe a (for you as a foreigner) new academic ritual. By accepting Ulla Johansson Sköldberg’s invitation to attend the defence of one of her PhD students, Marcus Jahnke, on Friday afternoon September 20th at the HDK – School of Design and Crafts, University of Gothenburg I had the great fortune to reap value from all three sources—and more: I witnessed the emergence of a new twist to the academic ritual.

PhD thesis Marcus Jahnke 2013

PhD thesis Marcus Jahnke 2013

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“Can artists make the world a better place?” Not surprisingly, given the high-culture context for the discussion (Aspen Ideas Festival) and the panellists (Damian Woetzel, former Principal Dancer at the New York City Ballet and co-initiator of Arts Strike; designer Fred Dust at IDEO; and philanthropist Dennis Scholl, initiator of Random Acts of Culture), the quick answer is a resounding “yes!” Under the skilled leadership of BBC journalist Bridget Kendall the panellists and the audience came up with questions and thoughts that both supported this claim and illustrated the disturbing societal challenges involved. The program is still available online, so I am capturing here only a few points that struck me, many of which resonate with my research findings.*

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One of the things that has occupied many of my days and nights over the course of the past two years is the Creative Clash project on artistic interventions in organizations. I have been participating as the research partner,  together with several colleagues in our  research unit at the WZB. Our role was to collect evidence of impacts of artistic interventions in organizations on the basis of existing publications—the project specifically excluded conducting new research, a somewhat perverse situation, given the paucity of available data and the difficulty of conducting such evaluations.

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The man standing in line in front of me at the Jeu de Paume theater in Aix en Provence tonight bought the last ticket to the concert “Leçon de jazz d’Antoine Hervé: Keith Jarrett.” I was about to turn away in disappointment, but the young woman at the ticket counter disappeared for a moment, then came back with a few slips in her hand: I was in luck, she said, the prefect would not be using his official box tonight so I could buy one of the best tickets in the house. So I was soon ensconced just to the left of the stage, overlooking the piano that awaited Antoine Hervé. The house was indeed completely sold out—to hear a famous French jazz pianist play and explain the art of Keith Jarrett.  As a great lover of Keith Jarrett ever since a friend gave us a recording of the Köln concert (and since hearing about the story behind that 1975 concert), I was ready to experience a magical evening.

Theatre du Jeu de Paume, Aix (photo ABA)

Theatre du Jeu de Paume, Aix (photo ABA)

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The dean of the department of education of Philipps-Universität Marburg welcomed the participants at the conference Organisation und das Neuewith the observation that we were taking on a topic that is „widerspruchsvoll und brisant“. Can “organization”, i.e., that which orders and maintains, generate newness? He did not add “and can it do so here?” but that question was definitely on my mind as I looked around the venerable hall in the ancient university of Marburg, reminiscent of a cathedral with its organ and decorated windows. (The university was founded in 1527 and is the “oldest protestant university in the world”/Wikipedia).

 

Opening session in Philipps-Universität Marburg (photo ABA)

Opening session in Philipps-Universität Marburg (photo ABA)

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I had no idea what to expect of the dinner invitation at the LoBe gallery in Wedding last night. What I discovered was a “a unique working framework that encourages artists to respond to each other’s art practices across a broad range of disciplines.”  Olivia Reynolds, artist and initiator of the gallery, and her team have developed a fascinating approach to curating the space for unusual interactions, including hosting beautiful and delicious dinners with the artists. About 25 guests talked animatedly, surrounded by the artwalls which David Mabb  and Henrik Schrat had just completed together during their month-long LoBe residency.

 

Dinner table awaiting LoBe guests, photo Brigitte Biehl-Missal

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After conducting so much research on the impacts of artistic interventions in organizations and the roles that intermediaries play in the process of linking artists and organizations, it was particularly interesting to witness the potential beginning of a new project. I introduced an experienced intermediary for the Fondation de France program “Nouveaux Commanditaires  / New Patrons  to the CEO of a French Group. Over lunch I listened to their exploratory conversation and observed the zigzag movement between clarifying and blurring understanding, as they posed each other questions, explained the structures and processes of their organizations, and started formulating desirable and unwanted outcomes.

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Artful conversations and Lunchbeat at the WZB, November 26-28

What happens when you bring together (a) curious minds whose bodies usually reside in Sweden, Finland, Germany and France, (b) the topic of artistic interventions in organizations, and (c) an array of art materials? Rich ingredients indeed. The three days of “Artful Research Conversations” at the WZB this week unleashed ideas, images, questions, plans for collaboration, and … dance.

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When Berliners first saw the new WZB campus designed by James Stirling, they dubbed it “die Geburtstagstorte” (the birthday cake)–inspired by the timing (the 750th anniversary of the city) and the pink and blue stripes around several parts of the building that are reminiscent of thick layers of icing on a cake. When I went to the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart to speak at the 3rd Forum on “CSR und Kultur”  this week, I felt like I was visiting an older sibling of the WZB, because I was surrounded by familiar Stirling forms and colours. However, although we used many images during the presentations and discussions about the relationships between CSR and culture, “icing on the cake” was definitely not among them!

Staatsgalerie Stuttgart

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The past ten days have been spent in almost constant motion. One way of characterizing them is as working across boundaries, disciplinary and geographical. At a Kolleg seminar in Konstanz (D), at a conference in Liège (B), and at meetings in Nantes (F). Each opportunity in different cultural settings to share my research questions and findings about artistic interventions in organizations is also an opportunity to learn from others, be it through their questions or their stories.

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