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The artist as project manager: Thomas Hirschhorn’s Bataille Monument (2002)

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The nature of neo-liberal management theory, based on the artist as a model worker, has proven problematic for theorizing and analysing contemporary socially engaged artistic practices. In the past, these practices were considered to be hostile to capitalism but now, with the rise of project-driven work within mainstream business models, how can we understand the socially engaged artist’s relationship to capitalism? The project, the network and communication have become key attributes within neo-liberal management discourse. In this article it is argued that a certain type of artistic practice has accompanied neo-liberalism that borrows these specific tropes akin to project management. It makes connections between Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello’s exploration of these ideological tropes in The New Spirit of Capitalism ([1999] 2007) and neo-liberal management ideas manifest in the Creative Industries in Britain. This analysis provides the theoretical base for examining Thomas Hirschhorn’s role as a ‘project manager’ within the Bataille Monument (2002) project in the second half of the article. It is argued here that Hirschhorn retains his anti-capitalist leanings whilst also adopting neo-liberal management tropes in the articulation and execution of his project.
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Keywords: Thomas Hirschhorn; monument; neo-liberalism; project management; socially engaged art

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Manchester Metropolitan University

Publication date: 2012-12-01

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  • The Journal of Arts and Communities seeks to provide a critical examination of the practices known as community or participatory arts, encompassing a field of work defined for this purpose as incorporating active creative ollaboration between artists and people in a range of communities.The journal will take a cross-artform and interdisciplinary approach,including work happening in performance, visual arts and media,writing, multimedia and collaboration involving digital technology and associated forms. In part this will create an archive that will document work which can otherwise be ephemeral
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