9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN07 Sociology of Culture

2009-09-05 09:00:00 2009-09-05 10:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 09:00 - 10:30 Art Worlds Building II, C4.07

Reification of Autonomy: Picture Frame as Media

The proposed paper examines one of the core problems of classical sociology as applied to culture and arts: the problem of social differentiation which signifies shift from traditional society to modern one. I am going to focus on this process in order to provide sociological accounts of changes occurred during this shift with humans? ability to perceive different art forms. I will show the limits of production of culture perspective and then turn to more culture-sensitive approach as applied to painting and its contemporary media forms within museum spaces.
The predominant perspective in sociology of arts and culture - production of culture perspective - provided several notions to elaborate this shift both on theoretical and empirical levels. Harrison C. White and Pierre Bourdieu are the most significant contributors to the empirical studies of autonomization in historical perspective. They both focused on the Impressionist movement and using notions of art market and field of art demonstrated the genesis of modern art institutions. In particular the link between social background and art forms was exemplified. To smaller extent Howard S. Becker in his classical work Artworlds keeps the same position by developing idea of collective nature of art. The general point to these approaches is reductionist perspective. Mediation of art form is reduced to its social environment.
In order to overcome reductionist perspective sociology of culture and art should take into consideration criticism from cultural sociology. In general cultural sociology is rooted in the idea of relative autonomy of culture. Thus, sociologists should focus on the effects in social life caused by art. To understand the link between art and society in its cultural sociological and mediated way I turn to Simmels' discussion of picture frame in his essays. I suppose that picture frame is a key object in reification of autonomy process if we speak about modern way of presenting painting. Simmels' works already contain the general perspective to study the change picture frame required to perceive art. I illustrate main point with the examples of exhibiting religious paintings from Tretyakov Gallery.