Dissertation Abstracts

Many Voices of the Artist Discussion: A Study of the Formation of Artist Discussion in the Media and Among (Visual) Artists

Author: Logrén, Anna , ilvesoksa@gmail.com
Department: School of Humanities
University: University of Eastern Finland, Finland
Supervisor: Professor Risto Turunen
Year of completion: 2015
Language of dissertation: Finnish

Keywords: Visual artist , Self-definition , Articulation , Media
Areas of Research: Arts , Professional Groups , Communication, Knowledge and Culture


The study examines the discussions and negotiations concerning artists during the first decade of the 21st century in Finland. The study sheds light on the discussions of the (local) art world and artist discussion practices from two different directions. The research material consists of 1) newspaper sources, i.e. the regional newspaper and the national newspaper, and 2) interviews of 24 artists living in Eastern Finland. The study examines the characteristics of the artist discussion in the media based on the artistry-related notions, values, and ideals. A similar analysis has been made on the basis of artist-originated discussions. This is a multidisciplinary study as it applies the theoretical concepts and views of not only the discourse and articulation theories but also for example traditions of sociology of art, literary criticism, and identity studies.

The study shows that in the newspapers the artist discussion is defined as an institutionally accepted professionalism that is affected by the criterions based on the institutional and administrative practices of the art world. The professionalism includes the ideal of artistic autonomy. The newsworthy artistry typically occurs as art exhibitions in the institutional centres of the art world. Artists’ international agency is highlighted. Local newspaper also writes about the artistry that is committed to local communities and contributes to their cultural participation. Exhibition news emphasise coherent exhibition, mastery of material and instrument and their appropriate, use-based expectations. Art criticisms emphasise the expectations of multidimensionality, communicativeness, and topicality. The ideals of professional success and activity are emphasised on the news.

The news concerning artists was based on assumptions of an creative artist with a personal style. The position of an individual artist remains relatively stable in spite of the postmodernist debate and discussions during the past decades that could be seen in the theoretical discourse of the art world for example as criticism of modern ideas of art and artists. The focus is on the relatively conventional forms of producers and productions.

The artist-originated discussion is more complex than the discussion in the media, although the discussions are to some extent overlapping. The comparison reveals that the media coverage around the person makes the artists and their attempts to express the spectre of artistry more one-sided. Artists are negotiating about their own artistry in the conjuncture where they confront different kinds of expectations. According to self-definitions, the ideals adopted from previously dominant ideas of artistry are intertwined with the expectations adopted from the contemporary public discussion. In the spirit of modernistic art conceptions, artists recreate for example ideals of artistic talent, visual creativity, integrity, authenticity, and individuality. The (postmodernistic) practices such as deliberate image building, productization, and financial success cannot be found among the practices. Professionalism is created by art-related knowledge, skills, training, education, and knowledge of the practices of the art world (for example exhibitions and scholarships). Artists also challenge the individualistic conception of an artist by detaching themselves from exhibition conventions and by committing themselves to working in pairs and teams, and acting in collective artistic practices in local communities.