2 Feb 2015 5:00pm - 7:00pm Room SG1, Alison Richard Building


Gigi Argyropoulou (Artist/Curator/Researcher, Birkbeck, University of London)
Professor Georgina Born (Anthropology/Music, University of Oxford)
Dr Pascal Gielen (Sociology of Arts, University of Groningen)
Chair: Jonas Tinius (Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge)


 “Art as an institution neutralizes the political content of the individual work”, claimed Peter Bürger in his 1984 Theory of the Avant-garde. This seminar interrogates the relation between institutions, avant-gardes, and politics. Are processes of institutionalisation per se an ‘affirmation of cultural order’ (Hal Foster, 1994)? What forms of conflict and/or competition exist between non-institutional avant-garde art groups and the establishment? How can we move beyond dichotomies of established artistic hegemony vs. independent political art? Can there be such a thing as a reactionary, or an anachronistic, perhaps even a historical avant-garde? How do avant-gardes (re)activate, occupy, or re-institutionalise? How do we conceptualise bottom-up forms of institutional artistic organisations?

Pascal Gielen: Institutional Imagination: Instituting Art when Flatness Rules.
Over the last three decades, not only museums but theaters, art academies and universities as well have undergone a profound transmutation. Institutions have been redefined within a context of competitive market relationships, and instituting as a ‘veticalization activity’ seems to have lost its function. For cultural sociologist Pascal Gielen the imagination that finds its place in art, is an important tool for distinguishing between the real world and an imagined, or ‘fictional reality’. Precisely because of our ability to ‘see the world through a double lens’, we can take up a vertical perspective ‘outside’ of society while still remaining within it. Not just museums or academies, but just about any institution that was shaped in the modern age, such as the family, the public opinion, the legal system and politics is now under pressure to give up this vertical perspective. It has been made increasingly difficult for them to pursue their own ideals and to develop their own imaginative horizon. In his talk Gielen analyses the identity of institutions in a time that ‘verticalities’ such as hierarchies, traditions, elites and canons are subject to eroding movements.



Gigi Argyropoulou is a researcher, artist, curator and theorist working in the fields of performance and cultural practice based in Athens and London. Gigi has initiated and organised cultural programmes, festivals, performances, conferences, and cross-disciplinary projects both inside and outside institutions. She is a founding member of Mavili Collective, Institute for Live Arts Research, Kolektiva Omonia and F2 Performance Unit/Mkultra. As a member of Mavili Collective co-initiated the reactivation/occupancy of Embros Theatre and a series of other activist/cultural critique actions in Greece during the crisis. Gigi received the Routledge Prize for PSi 18 and publishes regularly in academic journals, magazines and edited collections. She recently completed her PhD research at Roehampton University and is a research fellow at Birkbeck College. Currently, a co-editor for the upcoming issue of Performance Research ‘On Institutions’ (August 2015). More information: www.gigiargyropoulou.org

Georgina Born, FBA, is Professor of Music and Anthropology at the University of Oxford. Georgina Born is an anthropologist who works on cultural production, including major cultural institutions, with a focus on music, the arts and media. She now directs the European Research Council-funded programme ‘Music, Digitization, Mediation: Towards Interdisciplinary Music Studies’, based on ethnographies in Argentina, Canada, Cuba, India, Kenya and the UK, which examines the transformation of music by digitization. She is author of the two ethnographies Rationalising Culture: IRCAM, Boulez, and the Institutionalisation of the Musical Avant-Garde (California, 1995), Uncertain Vision: Birt, Dyke, and the Reinvention of the BBC (Vintage, 2005) as well as Music, Sound, and Space: Transformations of Public and Private Experience (Cambridge, 2013). She is visiting Professor at McGill University and the University of California, Berkeley and will give the British Academy Radcliffe-Brown lecture in social anthropology in spring 2015. 

Pascal Gielen (1970) is director of the research center Arts in Society at the Groningen University where he is associate Professor sociology of art. Gielen is editor in-chief of the book series ‘Arts in Society’ (Fontys School of Fine and Performing Arts, Tilburg & Groningen University). He has written serveral books on contemporary art, cultural heritage and cultural politics. Books: ‘Being an Artist in Post-Fordist Times’ (2009-NAi), ‘The Murmuring of the Artistic Multitude. Global Art, Memory and Post-Fordism’ (2009, 2010 and 2015 – Valiz), ‘Teaching Art in the Neoliberal Realm. Realism versus Cynicism’ (2013-Valiz), ‘Creativity and other Fundamentalisms’ (2013-Mondriaan), ‘Institutional Attitudes. Instituting Art in a Flat World’  (2013-Valiz), ‘The Ethics of Art. Ecological Turns in the Performing Arts’ (2014-Valiz), ‘Aesthetic Justice. Intersecting Artistic and Moral Perspectives’ and ‘No Culture, No Europe. On the Foundation of a Union’ (2015-Valiz). The research of Gielen focuses on cultural politics and the institutional contexts of the arts. Books of Gielen are translated in English, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Turkish.

Jonas Tinius is a PhD Candidate in the Division of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge and a fellow at the theatre collection, Institute for Media Culture and Theatre, University of Cologne. His fieldwork in Berlin and Germany’s postindustrial Ruhr valley addresses questions of creative labour, aesthetic traditions, and patronage in performing arts institutions. He is co-convenor of the Cambridge Interdisciplinary Performance Network at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities (CRASSH) in Cambridge (with Dr Clare Foster) and of the Anthropologies of Art (A/A) Network (with Dr Alex Flynn). Forthcoming with Palgrave Macmillan (2015): Anthropology, Theatre, and Development: The Transformative Potential of Performance (with Alex Flynn). For more info: www.jonastinius.com/



Open to all.  No registration required

Part of the Cambridge Interdisciplinary Performance Network (CIPN), series

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