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(Un)bearable freedom: Exploring the becoming of the artist in education, work and family life
Linköping University, Department for Studies of Social Change and Culture, Department of Culture Studies – Tema Q. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4331-4950
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this dissertation is to explore and understand three important social contexts for the becoming of an artistic subjectivity: education, work and family life. The empirical data consist of interview material with alumni from the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm, staff of the institute, and a survey material from the Swedish National Artists Organization (KRO/KIF). Generally, the thesis employs a theory of conflicting understandings of labour as well as the importance of discourses and narratives for the formation of subjects. The contribution of the thesis is the analysis of a continuing conflict between being and working as an artist actualized in the social contexts explored. The arts education encouraged a romanticized understanding of art as unrelated to market value, which clashed against societal norms of career progression, survival and supporting a family. This conflict informed the subjective way in which the respondents related to their activities as artists, workers and relatives. The concept of freedom can be understood as mediating this conflict in the sense of forming the basis of attraction to the arts but also a burden as it relates to insecurity. The analysis found several subjective representations of the artist that indicate strong norms of individuality and self-direction, understood as the outcome of a working life fraught with personal responsibility for coping with insecurity. As such, the thesis is part of ongoing research on changes in working life towards non-standard and sometimes precarious working conditions.

Abstract [sv]

Syftet med avhandlingen är att undersöka och förstå tre betydelsefulla sociala kontexter för konstruktionen av en konstnärlig identitet: utbildning, arbete och familj. Avhandlingens material består av intervjuer med alumner från Kungl. Konsthögskolan i Stockholm, undervisande personal på skolan, samt ett enkätmaterial från Konstnärernas riksorganisation KRO/KIF. Teoretiskt utgår avhandlingen från olika forskningsperspektiv på arbete samt diskursiv och narrativ konstruktion av subjektivitet. Avhandlingen påvisar en kontinuerlig konflikt mellan att vara eller att arbeta som konstnär. Den konstnärliga utbildningen positionerar konsten enligt romantisk tradition i motsättning till marknadslogik vilket efter utbildningen skapar en konflikt för konstnären som måste förhålla sig till normer av karriär, överlevnad av arbete och försörjning av familj. Denna konflikt påverkar hur konstnärerna subjektivt förhåller sig till sin konstnärliga aktivitet, totaliteten av sitt arbete och sin roll som anhöriga. Frihetsbegreppet kan förstås relatera till denna konflikt dels genom att utgöra en attraktion till konsten, dels genom att relatera till osäkerhet. I analysen framträdde flera konstnärliga subjektspositioner vilka alla indikerar starka normer av individualism och självtillräcklighet. Dessa kan relateras till ett arbetsliv karaktäriserat av eget ansvar för att hantera osäkerhet. Avhandlingen är därför del i en pågående forskning kring ett arbetsliv i förändring mot atypiska och även mer prekära arbetsförhållanden.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2016. , 98 p.
Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 692
Keyword [en]
Cultural work, visual artists, subjectivity, discourse analysis, narrative analysis
Keyword [sv]
Konstnärligt arbete, bildkonstnärer, subjektivitet, diskursanalys, narrativ analys
National Category
Cultural Studies Performing Arts Social Work Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-132391DOI: 10.3384/diss.diva-132391ISBN: 9789176857175 (print)OAI: diva2:1044934
Public defence
2016-11-25, K3, Kåkenhus, Campus Norrköping, Norrköping, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2016-11-07 Created: 2016-11-07 Last updated: 2016-11-07Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Constructions of Professional Subjectivity at the Fine Arts College
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Constructions of Professional Subjectivity at the Fine Arts College
2015 (English)In: Professions and Professionalism, ISSN 1893-1049, Vol. 5, no 2Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Higher education can function as an important marker of seriousness in fields characterized by diffuse professional standards. Using the case of a fine arts institute, the article outlines the role of higher education in promoting the interconnection of a professional and individual subjectivity; being an artist is not merely something one does but something one is. By primarily examining interview material, it explores how an ideal position of individual self-reliance relates to the alumni of the institute. Some respondents were not “in sync” with this position and needed to seek out other resources in order to construct themselves as professional artists. However, they seldom rejected the kind of subjectivity promoted by their education, but rather renegotiated it as part of the uncertainty of their chosen field.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Oslo: Hoegskolen i Oslo og Akershus, 2015
arts professionals, artistic education, self-reliance, discursive repertoire
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-127714 (URN)10.7577/pp.869 (DOI)
Available from: 2016-05-10 Created: 2016-05-10 Last updated: 2016-11-10
2. Artists and Multiple Job Holding: Breadwinning Work as Mediating Between Bohemian and Entrepreneurial Identities and Behavior
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Artists and Multiple Job Holding: Breadwinning Work as Mediating Between Bohemian and Entrepreneurial Identities and Behavior
2016 (English)In: Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies, ISSN 2245-0157, E-ISSN 2245-0157, Vol. 6, no 3, 43-58 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Artists are known to manage low income and work insecurity by holding multiple jobs. Through an analysis of interview data, this study explores the narratives of 20 visual artists in Sweden regarding breadwinning work. Positive and negative experiences of such work are analyzed in relation to the artists’ work behavior and identity as either ‘bohemian’ or ‘entrepreneurial.’ Breadwinning work may be seen by artists as either enabling autonomy from the market or hindering the construction of a professional identity, depending on these behaviors/identities. However, conditions such as low wage, temporary contracts, and low control over work hours ultimately decides artist’s experiences of breadwinning work. This article adds to the existing knowledge on artistic labour markets by highlighting the role of multiple job holding in mediating between an understanding of the bohemian art for art’s sake artist role and the entrepreneurial role of the artist.

National Category
Cultural Studies Performing Arts Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-132390 (URN)10.19154/njwls.v6i3.5527 (DOI)
Available from: 2016-11-07 Created: 2016-11-07 Last updated: 2016-11-30Bibliographically approved
3. Work-family Conflict among Professional Visual Artists in Sweden: Gender Differences in the Influence of Parenting and Household Responsibilities
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Work-family Conflict among Professional Visual Artists in Sweden: Gender Differences in the Influence of Parenting and Household Responsibilities
2013 (English)In: Nordisk kulturpolitisk tidskrift, ISSN 1403-3216, Vol. 16, no 2, 239-268 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article explores contemporary Swedish artists’ experiences of work–family conflict from a gender perspective. Sweden is a critical case as the country is well-known for its official gender equality policy stressing the importance of possibilities for women and men to balance family and paid work. The analysis of survey data collected from 2,025 Swedish professional visual artists shows their self-reported levels of work–family conflict to be generally low. Women artists, however, were found to experience more conflict than men artists. The results suggest that women face more pressure from the demands of both work and home than men. While an OLS regression analysis showed a relationship between the artists’ parenting responsibility and their perceived level of work–family conflict overall, for men artists this was so only at the second child. An unequal division of housework had negative consequences for women artists’ work–family balance, while the effect of being single was in this regard more pronounced among men than among women. This suggests that men, to a greater extent than women, depend on a spouse to handle the balance between work and family. Although much has happened regarding the gender issues in the art world, patterns of dependence and traditional gender roles in work and caring thus continue to persist, limiting individuals’ choices and actual ability to work as an artist, especially for women.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Högskolan i Borås, 2013
artistic work, children, gender equality, Sweden, work–family conflict
National Category
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-107362 (URN)
Available from: 2014-06-11 Created: 2014-06-11 Last updated: 2016-11-07Bibliographically approved

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