Workshop: The artistic mission – What is the role of an artist in a for-profit economy?

From a humanistic perspective, the main difference between an artist and a creative entrepreneur is that the purpose of the artist is not money making; or as Andrew Horwitz put it: “Artists want money so they can make more art; entrepreneurs want money so they can make more money.” This clear distinction has become blurry in the last decades within the neoliberal for-profit economy. One consequence is the emergence of the artist as entrepreneur, a person that has adopted various practices of entrepreneurs, making art as business. Based on this model profit becomes the purpose, not just a result or a side effect. But what is the not for profit mission of art? How to avoid becoming a servant of the ideologies and tactics of professional success, self-branding and self-management?

This workshop is an investigation on the role of art in the current economy, looking from the perspective of which value systems guide the aspirations and motivations of artists. This workshop is addressed to anybody who wants to work together on a diagnosis of today’s blurry lines between the different value systems of the creative industries. In this light, the workshop will provide the participants with a frame to problematize the way they access the professional structure, inviting them to a mutual practice of self-examination. What makes an artistic trajectory move towards a certain direction or deviate from the standard pathway? What are the forces of attraction for an artistic trajectory to move? What are some of the purposes and results of the artistic mission? What is the level of consistency of an artistic practice from an ethical point of view?

This workshop is not interested in career management or business planning but rather on applying conceptual tools and artistic practices to explore the possibility for new value systems to appear, thus expanding the notion of professionalism within the creative industries and the arts. The actual context of Berlin will also play a major role in our investigations and we will embark on a diagnosis of the city’s current artistic and entrepreneurial environment. While it is nothing new to look at Berlin as one of the most popular cities for artists to move in, it is only during the last decade that Berlin has been branding itself as the European hub for startups and innovation, attracting investors and young entrepreneurs. But does economic growth automatically generate better quality of life? Which ideologies and values systems exist behind that notion of professional success? How is the startups ecosystem intersecting with the artistic community in the city, and how does that influence the city? What kind of city is worth living in?

The workshop’s methodology will combine both theoretical and artistic practices, providing a playground for the participants to share their own experiences and points of view in order to engage on a practice of critical inquiry, self-examination and cultivation of the inner eye. We will train ourselves on the art of making interviews using the Torpedo Fish Method borrowed from the philosopher Socrates. This will facilitate the engagement on a mutual self-examination throwing questions and problematizing each other while training ourselves in the art of interviewing recording the conversations and generating an archive of the workshop. We will also create graphics for concept visualization that will help us to increase the awareness on the main issues around the topic of professionalism. This will require practicing the skills for critical argument and training the ability to argue and be resolute, meaning, to articulate your thoughts to avoid confusion and unclarity about why do we do what we do and why we want it: to reach clarity about one’s own ideas, motivations and goals and what kind of value system one is bringing into play.

Besides the texts and graphic generation, at the end of the module we will organize together a final event called The Waiting Room. The Waiting Room opens space for encounters while expanding the research of the workshop into a public domain. This will be the opportunity to exercise with others the practices developed during the workshop while using the format of the interview to confront the participants of the event with questions we have been articulating throughout the month.



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Diego Agulló

Diego Agulló

Pictures by Joana Dias