PhD Grays School of Art

  • Abstract
    Understanding How the Social Qualities of Art Influence Organizational Change: A Methodology For Art as a Social Practice.
    Smith 2015.

Understanding How the Social Qualities of Art Influence Organizational Change:
A Methodology For Art as a Social Practice. Smith 2015.

  • What insights can art reveal in the context of organizational change?
  • How do artistic practices influence the way communities address change?
  • In what ways can an individual artistic practice concerned with the role of art in society add new insights to theories and practices of  contemporary art?

These questions are approached through three interrelated methods. In the first the artist as researcher consciously addresses organizational change through her artistic practice, over a three year period, within the different communities of Woodend Barn, a volunteer-led arts centre in the North East of Scotland.
The second method is a literature review focusing on the selected artistic practices of Allan Kaprow, Suzanne Lacy and Artist Placement Group. Each practice is discussed in relation to the underpinning philosophical principals of Pragmatism, in particular John Dewey’s ideas on the generative qualities of aesthetic experience. These insights inform the research as it unfolds within the organizational context of Woodend Barn, itself at a point of significant change.
The third method draws on anthropologist Michel de Certeau’s theory of the act of speaking to define the details of social interaction. This leads to a conversational method of analysis that draws out the synergies and differences of the chairperson of Woodend Barn and the artist. The analysis aims to understand the qualities and conditions for social interaction in arts practice and how they affect change in organizational contexts. It has become apparent that a key condition of the artwork is an artist who is committed to a refined and informed understanding of the social dynamics of art (as evidenced in the two principal projects Fold (2012) and Lavender (2012-2014). It is important to recognize that although not all artists have these skills or are interested in adopting a social focus in their practice.
The research sets out to address and influence new generations of artists and more broadly, to rethink the value of social interaction in artists practices in relation to economic values.
Understanding how social interactions become generative sense-making experiences is an important quality of the practice and research findings. This resonates with Dewey’s theory that it is through the unconstrained characteristics of art that aesthetic experience can shift deeply- rooted ways of thinking. The research concludes with a social manifesto for art that outlines the conditions for individuals from different communities to act in ways that are self-directed and lead to community resilience.


AHRC Connected Communities Programme Collaborative Doctoral Award. Gray's School of Art, Robert Gordon University and Woodend Barn, Aberdeenshire.
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