The terms of being an artist in the early 21st century : the struggle, endurance and affect of visual and performing artists in the UK
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The fact that artists struggle financially and affectively might not surprise many people in the UK, but what is less known is how they put up with those struggles and why they struggle. To explore these issues, this thesis presents an in-depth ethnographic analysis of the struggle, endurance and affect of visual and performing art practitioners in the UK. The ethnographic data are collected through both shadowing ten UK-based visual and performing art practitioners as well as participating in and observing art events during fourteen-months fieldwork between May 2018 and September 2019. This thesis challenges two established explanations of artists’ struggles: struggles are the only thing that people should know about artists; struggles might actually be what artists want, given that art is the thing they want to live for and die for. Instead, I argue that UK-based artists’ struggles can be understood as an integral part of “the ‘terms’ of being an artist in the early 21st century”. That is, these artists model themselves on historical artist figures, the terms of which are freeing themselves from the domination of “Enlightenment-modernity-capitalism” but entailing economic and affective struggles. They sometimes also follow two alternative imperatives (pro-lifestyle and pro-equality), but the more they try to follow two or more contradictory imperatives, the more their efforts come to nothing. By examining themes such as poverty, meritocracy, unconscious bias, relationality and spontaneity, this thesis further contributes to the comparative studies and the interdisciplinary discussions of endurance, affect, inequality, art and human feelings under liberal capitalism.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 Internationalhttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
Embargo Date: 2027-05-13
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Restricted until 13th May 2027
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