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Session Overview
RN02_10a_P: The Arts in the Context of Neoliberalism
Friday, 01/Sep/2017:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Victoria D. Alexander, Goldsmiths, University of London
Location: PC.3.21
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: C, Level: 3.

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Left-wing Populism and the Arts: Crisis, Resistance and Critique

Panos Kompatsiaris

Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russian Federation

In philosophical aesthetics as well as in the wider popular imagination, art refers to a reflective and contemplative activity and is routinely different than popular culture as the brute and philistine cultural expressions of the masses. While art is expected to have a broadly-conceived educational mission, it has to simultaneously denounce such popular culture forms that involve propaganda, didacticism and immediacy in order to legitimize itself socially. The apparatus of ‘populism’ can be seen as an antagonistic pole to the fundamental principles of art’s constitution as a separate field of practice. Populism is a largely demonized and hideous articulation of popular culture, standing not only against art but against ‘enlightened’ practice in general (Laclau, 2005). Populism is banal, repetitive and stagnating, and, according to its opponents, it vulgarizes rational political debate and the prospect of achieving a responsible civic consciousness.

This paper explores the social and political implications of the merging of art with left-wing populism in the context of present day Europe. It looks at cases that employ a direct language and an aggressive anti-neoliberal rhetoric grounded on widespread populist binaries, such as the 'elites' and the 'people'. I argue that populist artistic forms challenge the split between art and popular culture and can act oppositionally both against right-wing populism and prevalent forms of neoliberal governance.

A plaster for the wounds of neoliberalism?

Mirja Liikkanen

Statistics Finland, Finland

Call for papers for this RN says “Art’s position within society and politics has always been complex and ambi¬valent. Artists may raise a critical voice or offer ideological legitimation for a dominant, hegemonic image of society.” I’d like to seize on the latter, especially on behalf of art sociology. Are we a critical voice in the society?

This question is especially crucial in present societal situation where neoliberal political order has altered heavily the societal order and has created a new class order. Recent research has shown how work and the middle class identity and position, and capabilities connected to it, are prioritized and regarded as proof of proper citizenship in the society. Those who do not reach this position are pushed into margins and poverty, and are more and more often controlled and punished by social politics.

Cultural policy speaks a lot about inclusion and participation, and has programs and projects among those in the margins, often with research on their efficiency. My question is, if cultural policy and research connected to it acts as a critical voice or does it instead offer only a plaster for the consequences of the more general societal politics.

I will discuss the issue by inquiring the new class order in relation to changing of concepts like audience, experience/creative economy, participation or social space. What kinds of (new ) societal connections can be found? How is art connected with - celebrating the middle class identity or empowering those in the margins?

Perverse Use of Street Art by Local Authorities

Voica Puscasiu

"Babes-Bolyai" University - Cluj-Napoca, Romania

All around the world Street Art stands in a legal grey zone between being treated as vandalism or as a welcome addition to the urban landscape. The reinforcement of punishments for such acts is highly dependent on the local authorities and thus varies greatly, but things have the potential of get even more confusing when the said authorities choose to protect one work while taking down another, occasionally by the same author. As the laws are murky at best, there is little wonder that Street Art pieces eventually come to be distasteful political pawns. In this case study we shall see how a mayor in North-Western Romania used art as a defense for a very controversial and offensive wall that he had previously build, in order to protect it from being taken down. The wall was put up as the mayor's initiative to visually separate the slums in which Rroma minority resides, from the rest of the town. While technically not creating a ghetto, the construction raised red flags for various anti-discrimination agencies, which begun taking legal action against the mayor as well as an all-out media war. The mayor's response was inviting young students form an art university to paint the wall so that it would fall under the protection of copyright laws and thus safe from destruction. However, the university's involvement in such matters caused further outrage, a media scandal, and public debates. This entire situation brings to light numerous issues pertaining to Romanian society, but the relevance of this discussion stems from the fact that due to the current global state of things, a similar scenario could easily be found elsewhere.

Rewriting of Urban Space: Istanbul’s Street Art and Graffiti Scene

Hande Aral, Ozan Günel

Beykent University, Turkey

Lefebvre said every society is a production of its own space. Unlike feudal ages, cities theoretically should be stripped from class differentiations but with neo-capitalism rising all over the world, modern cities evolve to separate classes from each other much like feudal cities. Subculture born to rebel this design and one of the most important part of subculture is to reflect and rebel against this design in a cultural and artistic sense. Usually subculture produce by people who can not reach that cities possibilities. Graffiti rise within African-American community during popularization of hip-hop. But Istanbul on the other hand create different kind story. In Istanbul subculture and all its artistic expressions like graffiti and street art also belong to middle class. While street art and graffiti started to fuse with system in general street art and graffiti in Istanbul hold their position as both urban and political struggle field. After Gezi protest this field of resistance acknowledged more and more both from artist and from urban residence. Not every art emphasize heavily on political issues but with rising of far right conservatism, urban transformations, rising of violence culture and separation of space between rich and poor classes, existence of non-systematic production became ideological itself. Ranciere said political activity is to remove body from its designated space or changing o space’s fate. So this research tries to elaborate how Istanbul’s street art and graffiti became cities first line of defense against neo-capitalism and conservatism and how art is changing city’s resistance dynamics.

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