[artinfo] 2 Calls: 'The Art of Oppression' and 'The Art of Subversion'

Steffen Bohm sgbohm at essex.ac.uk
Mon Nov 3 00:35:16 CET 2003

Please find below Calls for Contributions for TWO streams at the Art of
Management and Organization Conference, Paris, 7th10th Sept 2004



Conveners: Alf Rehn and Samantha Warren

In a situation where the miserable reality can only be changed through
radical political praxis, the concern with aesthetics demands
justification (Marcuse, 1979, The Aesthetic Dimension)

Marcuses words neatly encapsulate the aim of this stream proposal  what
does art (and aesthetics) have to do with management? Why, when capitalism
still grows fat on the fruits of child labour, and squeezes its profits
from the sweatshop, are we concerning ourselves with the frivolity of art
and aesthetics?

Of course, the birth of organizational aesthetics in the early 1990s
heralded a welcome recognition that processes of human sensemaking,
organizing and managing at work are far more sensuous, embodied,
passionate and aesthetico-intuitive (Gagliardi 1996: 576) than
traditional modernist organizational discourses had tried to make out, and
these issues are undoubtedly ripe for exploration  indeed these themes
have provided fertile ground for the convenors of this stream  and yet,
within this hallelujah chorus, it is worryingly hard to make out the
critical voice that started the whole aesthetic movement in the first
place. Have things gone a bit too far? Are we in danger of becoming a
bunch of organizational lovies?

While there is much of analytic interest to be had from an aesthetic
perspective on management and organization, the dark side of Art and
Management is not insignificant. Theatre used as a mode of controlling
organizational actors, art used as a way to mollify political demands,
style used as an offensive weapon  in corporate life we can find a number
of ways in which art and aesthetic moves are used not to enhance
organizational experience but to establish hegemony. The romantic notion
of art as a panacea is of course a fallacy, but one we buy into far too

The official art of Nazi Germany, Soviet socialist realism and the
celebratory aesthetics of almost any dictatorship shows us how art can be
used in an oppressive fashion. Still, the modern versions of this 
corporations sponsoring suitable art, the omnipresent portraits of great
men in company boardrooms, art used as symbolic capital in company
presentations  has strangely enough escaped our attention, for the most
part. Art, in the eyes of management and organization studies, is still a
good thing.

So, in this (we hope) deliberately antagonistic stream, we invite critical
submissions that question the implications of a celebratory perspective on
the integration of the arts, aesthetics and management.

More information about the Artinfo mailing list