The Agency of Flow: Artist, Apparatus and Belonging


Public culture often finds itself squeezed by corporate interests and subjected to mechanisms, which have evolved according to stricktly commercial demands. As a consequence art occupies an ambiguous space, and remains in danger of dissolving into fashion and the cult of celebrity, or becoming a branch of the entertainment industry.

Given the convergence of what Pierre Bourdieu called ‘the symbolic economy of art’ with a wider promotional culture of branding, sponsorship, shopping, property development, speculation, and communication, artists have acquired different skills, and evolved new practices to engage with the shifting cultural agendas. These have been opened up by institutional devolution, changes in distribution and dissemination of ideas as new opportunites brought about by creative commons licensing, collaborative initiatives and self-determination begin to emerge in Asia.

Free movement of consumer goods guaranteed by trade agreements has not been matched by a similar openess towards free movement of people. More and more artists have become the citizens of the global art events travelling from one biennale city to the next, realising their commissioned projects and displaying their creative goods.

This presentation maybe be a timely occasion to propose, encourage and reflect on a set of different artistic conditions. How can artists become agents restoring belief and value in embedded practices while offering critical insight into wide ranging enquiries, which mark their emotional attachments to places far and close? Perhaps it is through activating relationships and acknowledging mutually beneficial structures, rather than picturing them, new alliances and communities of shared interest will emerge.