9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN02 Sociology of the Arts

2009-09-03 09:00:00 2009-09-03 10:30:00 Thursday, 3 September 09:00 - 10:30 Arts and Criticism Building II, C6.10

Three cases: how the artist's visibility is shaped by the primary distributors

In art criticism as well as in arts journalism, the artist must basically resort to an asymmetrical constellation in communication. Especially when the journalist or the critic reports on the artistic work he or she functions as a self-legitimized definer of the artistic production. Nowadays, certain institutional actors, the so-called primary distributors such as gallerists, managers, curators and communication officers, attempt to pre-define the object and to affect the arts journalist's reporting. This does not always result in a satisfying outcome as different values are at stake. My aim is to scrutinize three cases from cultural departments in Finnish newspapers where the journalistic text is based on a bulletin in order to explore some collision points in the patterns of arts reporting.

The cases are chosen on the basis that some misunderstandings between the journalist and the artist (i.e. conventions of the artworld) have occurred. The cases are from Finnish regional newspapers with an established cultural department and deal with contemporary dance and visual arts. The texts are regarded through the whole journalistic work process with the help of the following questions: 1) What were the basic assumptions of the journalistic ideation (genre, point, method)? 2) Was any direct contact between the artist and the reporter established? 3) How was the information acquisition realized? 4) How and why did the artist feel misunderstood and how did the interpretations and justifications differed from each other?

The cases are situated in the context of the two-sided professionalism of cultural journalism. There are principally two ways of treating the object in newspaper journalism. Both the system of journalism as well as the system of criticism legitimate their goals in different ways. The cases in question are contextualized with the help of a description of these journalistic systems which is grounded in an organizational ethnography that I conducted in the cultural department of the largest Finnish national newspaper in 2005. The study suggests that the relation between the traditional newspaper universalism (the tradition of journalism) and specialist expertise (the tradition of criticism) is being re-defined, which may result in new ways of reporting.