Helen Smith
First Name: Helen
Surname: Smith
Position: Research Student

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award with Woodend Barn, Banchory, Aberdeenshire.

Project Title: The Influence of Art as a Social Process in Organizational Situations.

Start Date: October 2011

My research begins with the supposition that art has a social value. This is evident in the trajectory of artists working in relation to social and cultural issues in partnership with non-art organizations, a move that has problematised the conditions of art making (Kester, 2004; Bishop, 2012; Jackson; 2012, Finkelpearl, 2013). From this position I argue that the contribution art makes to society cannot be fully realized until we know how this value occurs.

I have found that the voice of the artist is missing from contemporary critical theory on this subject despite recognition that it will add unique insights to the dialogue (Kester, 2004). My experience of working in the public sphere as an artist suggests that meaning occurs through the experience of a continuous and sustained relation between participants of a shared venture, in which both artist and participants become invested. This is a social activity centred on how relationships develop between individuals from the reciprocity that grows from their positive and negative interactions (Graeber, 2002).

While social encounters of all kinds can be described as both reciprocal and relational activities, the research is principally concerned with what is made possible through the specific expertise of the artist and how the practices and behaviours of the artist working in particular social contexts can shed light on the issue of value. The research explores the implications for the practice, including the apparently contradictory aspects of working autonomously, collaboratively and critically.