The purpose of this article
is to provide an overview of the most important aspects of the concept of
artification. I will proceed through
five main questions: (1) What does artification
mean? (2) What can become artified? (3) Why does artification take place? (4) How can it manifest itself? (5) What kinds of things are accentuated in
artification processes? The answers to
these questions have a direct influence on how we understand artification’s
real effects and those desired but not necessarily actual on both the things
that become artified and on art itself. At
the end of the article, I will put special emphasis on the question of what
impact artification might have on art. My
aim is to introduce and clarify conceptual tools for making sense of
contemporary artification phenomena but I will also discuss some real-life
cases that I think can be well understood by using the proposed concept.
art practices, artification,
arts and business, concept of art, institutions of art, mixing
1. What does artification mean?
The neologism “artification”
refers to situations and processes in which something that is not regarded as
art in the traditional sense of the word is changed into something art-like or
into something that takes influences from artistic ways of thinking and acting. It refers to processes where art becomes
mixed with something else that adopts some features of art.
This is a stipulative
definition of the concept. Whether it
will be of use in many contexts, and also be clearly and differently enough
defined compared to other concepts, remains to be seen.
To the best of my knowledge,
the concept (originally taiteistuminen in
Finnish) was first coined and used in this sense by a group of Finnish
scholars, Yrjänä Levanto, Susann Vihma, and myself, in an anthology named Taiteistuminen published in 2005. There are scholars who used the same term
even earlier but in a slightly different way, actually referring to a different
concept. This usage may first have been
introduced by Ellen Dissanayake in 2001.
For Dissanayake, artification means transforming things into art proper by
making or producing art. The equivalent
French term was used by Roberta Shapiro independently of Dissanayake in her
presentation “Qu’est-ce que l’artification?” at the XVIIth Congress of AISLF (Association
international des sociologues de langue française) in 2004. From
my point of view, it might be clearer, in both of these cases, to simply talk
about making or producing art. My
interest lies in processes where something that is not art is affected by art
but does not turn into art in the traditional sense of the word. Moreover, in Dissanayake’s evolutionary sense,
artification has always taken place as long as the human species has existed,
whereas in the sense I wish to emphasize it is clearly a contemporary
Conceptually, mixing art
with non-art presupposes an idea about art as something special or distinctly
different from everything else. This
might seem trivial but is not. On the
contrary, it is the point of departure that makes the whole issue
comprehensible and, in fact, possible.
I agree with Paul Oskar
Kristeller and Larry Shiner that before the conceptual and institutional
differentiation started by Charles Batteux and others that began to evolve in
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Europe, there was no art in the
modern Western sense of the word.
Before that period there was no conceptual tool to group such things as poems,
paintings, songs, dances, novels, theater plays, and so on under one and same
heading and, at the same time, separate them from mathematics, crafts, science,
cooking, and everything else. And
conceptually, before art came into existence, nothing could have been artified,
either. Artification cannot take place
without art; it needs art as its point of reference and source of ideas and
practices. It also needs to have things
that are not art so that these two can be mixed and affect each other.
Of course, many things that
now are often related to art, such as creativity, visual, and auditive skills
and strong emotional engagement, had their place in crafts, science, rituals,
architecture, children’s plays, and elsewhere much earlier than in the seventeenth
century. According to Dissanayake’s studies, human beings have made certain
things in special, extraordinary ways as long as the species has existed. Even very young children can take part in
such “making special” processes where formalization, elaboration, repetition,
exaggeration, and manipulation of expectation are typical strategies; ordinary
walking turns into art or dance when artified through such operations. Seen from this angle, making art is possible
and even normal at the very early stages of human evolution, both for the
species and for each individual. Dissanayake
describes all the different versions of this “making special” with the word
artification. One must
note, however, that everything that falls under Dissanayake’s description of
extra-ordinary, artified behavior is not necessarily conceived of as art by
When one talks about artification one must necessarily have some conception of art; it can be seen
as creative, beautiful, extraordinary, or something else. One may try to conceive of it from various
different perspectives, from that of the producer, the work, the receiver, and
the institution. In all these
variations, some things are classified as art, some as non-art, and some as
somehow close to art or resembling it. Following
Kendall L. Walton’s well-known
terminology, one could say that different people don’t have to agree on what
features or properties are standard, variable, and contra-standard for
categories of art and non-art but they still need to have some idea of what defines this difference. If they artify, they are willing to mix
categories and their features, and by doing so to create a new category of
artified things. Even in Dissanayake’s
system, one could, in principle, differentiate two ways of talking about
artification: artification as making things extraordinary and thus art proper,
and artification as using strategies of this extraordinary-making on occasions
where they are not really taken to their full potential but only approaching it.
In artification discourses,
the common attitude is that art as its own cultural entity still exists. The point is not to get rid of art altogether
or, on the other hand, to claim that everything should be art, as has been the
case in some interpretations of the avant-garde.
The idea is not to blend art into something else so totally that art as an
independent social and cultural phenomenon would become totally obsolete. Rather, the point is to make use of art and
adopt something from it. In this sense,
artification does not come close to the pre-modern artless state. It is necessarily related to the modern and
Western idea of art, even if it questions modern art’s most rigorously
autonomy-oriented forms, as presented by artists and thinkers such as Joseph
Kosuth and Ad Reinhardt.
One can perhaps say that artification is one indicator of the much more general
change from the modern to the post-modern world-view, which allows or even
requires the mixing of cultural spheres that were customarily kept more or less
separate in modern thinking. Still, as
Wolfgang Welsch points out, post-modernism does not mean leaving the modern
behind but rather radicalizing it, developing its tendencies and, thus, keeping
close, critical contact with it.
The process of artification
might eventually progress to the point where art gets so mixed up with
something else that it will start to vanish as an independent cultural
formation. But if this should happen in toto, one could not talk about artification
any longer. What would be left is only
something that has adopted some features of what used to be typical for independent art before. This is why artifiers need some version of art
that is more or less autonomous and independent. Also, if everything turned into art proper,
then nothing could be art-like any longer.
Neither of these extreme situations is likely to develop, but they draw
the conceptual limits for the existence of artification.
Those who talk of phenomena
that can be called artification consciously
reflect on the relation of art and non-art.
This, too, is different from Dissanayake’s artification. In her system,
it seems that people can very well produce art without conceptualizing and
calling it as such. It might be that
other individuals than the actors themselves make this conceptualization, but
that is not essential at all; it is the action (dancing, drawing), itself, that
is. But contemporary artification comes
about only when there is a conscious comparison between art and non-art. Contemporary artification is not only a
conceptual exercise but also an institutional and practical phenomenon, as I
will try to show shortly, yet it is still necessarily also a conceptual one and often even verbally expressed phenomenon. In my understanding, it cannot be just
practices like the making of certain kind of pictures, because it calls for a
conscious reflection upon the relations between art and non-art.
Artification also borders on
another culturally topical concept, aestheticization. As I understand these terms, artification can be a special case of
aestheticization, which is nevertheless a differently organized concept. Aestheticization in its different versions is
not necessarily related to art at all.
Aestheticization refers to
processes where some sort of aesthetic point of view is intentionally and
actively used, typically in areas where it had not been in use before. It means strengthening the role of the
aesthetic as compared to some other situations.
To claim that something like this is happening became typical during the
1980-1990’s, especially in European discussions. Many started to see that politics, science,
marketing, philosophy, and many other areas had become aestheticized. But this could mean several things. In some instances, aestheticization meant
visualization, such as Mike Featherstone’s interpretation of the pivotal role
of pictures and other images in contemporary consumer culture; in others it
meant accentuating the importance of corporeality or sensuality in philosophy,
like Wolfgang Welsch’s “aesthetic thinking.” A third group stressed the
importance of beauty or elegance in various every-day life contexts, like the less
academic discussions around aesthetic surgery and other phenomena related to human
appearance by Naomi Wolf and others. Still
others emphasized the life-directing role of rewarding experiences, such as
Gerhard Schulze’s Erlebnisgesellschaft.
Some, of course, connected it closely with art, too, like the late Michel
Foucault’s idea about life as analogous to a literary work of art.
Aestheticization was also
normally seen as typical for the post-modern attitude, where previously
differentiated cultural and conceptual areas started to become mixed. The reasons for specifically accentuating the
aesthetic approach varied from pointing out that religious and political values
had lost something of their weight and thus people needed new guiding
principles for their choices, to the more down-to-earth notions that people
have more spare time and money than ever before and thus need to have ideas
about what to do with them.
If one thinks that art is
some sort of home base for the aesthetic, then artification might mean
aestheticization. But I would claim that
this narrows the concept of art too much.
One can adopt other things from art, not only its aesthetic features or
values, and the following chapters will give some ideas about what these other
things can be. So artification is not
only aestheticization, nor is aestheticization only artification, even if they
seem to overlap in some cases.
2. What can become artified?
Of the five questions
presented above, “What can become artified?” is probably the easiest to answer:
in principle, anything that is not art. In
practice, however, some parts of Western culture have been more interested
in this option than others. There are at
least three large sectors where the phenomenon can be seen very clearly. These are business, well-being and
health-care services, and academic education and research, sometimes
intertwined with each other. In this
article, I will deal mainly with the first sector and use it as my primary
prism for making sense of the larger phenomenon, whereas the health-care aspect
will be covered by Susann Vihma, and academic education and research, through
the design perspective, by Stephen A. R. Scrivener and Su Zheng. However, in section 4, I will briefly analyze
a case where business and education aspects are combined.
One may claim that business,
for example, can be artified but it
is much more interesting if it can be shown that business really has been artified, if not through-and-through, at least in
many instances. Is this the case?
In recent years there has
emerged a trend of talking about hiring artists in business. Canadian management professor and consultant
Nancy J. Adler offered an overview of
the current discussion. She analyzed the
mainstreams of this current and summarized the core point: “The time is right
for cross-fertilization of the arts and leadership.”
She also listed several concrete examples of making use of artists’ skills in
companies, corporations, business conferences, management societies,
business-schools, and elsewhere. The
most telling point about this contemporary discourse is that her literature
list includes nearly one hundred publications dealing with the theme, most of
them published after the year 2000. The
idea of cross-fertilization is clearly widespread.
There are a number of other
examples of this same attitude from several countries. The Danish scholar and consultant Lotte Darsø
analyzes many of them in her book, Artful
Creation, covering different cases from Unilever via Volvo to Xerox PARC
(Palo Alto Research Center).
Recently (October 19, 2010), I myself heard
a presentation by Jarkko Jokinen, a director at the second-largest medicine
company in the world, ClaxoSmithKline, in which he said that the company had
hired professional actors for training their sales personnel to present their
products more effectively to their customers.
A good example of a more
general-level discussion is the Finnish government’s proposal for the country’s
arts and artist policy in 2003. In it,
one finds rather abstract ideas about using art in several different contexts:
in education and in health-care, but also in business. Some sort of autonomy and self-value of art
is by no means totally denied but the stress is clearly on the instrumental
conception of it. Even the titles of the
proposal’s chapters reveal this attitude: “Art is social capital,” “Art is
creative capital,” “Art creates economic capital,” and so on. In any case, the ideas remain very general,
and few concrete cases or evidence for the usefulness of art are presented. It is openly stated, for example, that producing
water-proof evidence about the economic impacts of art is impossible.
Still, it is repeated again and again that art has something to do specifically
with creativity and innovation and that this creativity should be made use of
Often, similar general ideas are
presented under the title “creative economy” or “creative industries,” and
sometimes they are formulated in a rather expressive way. John Hartley offers an example of this:
‘Art’ needs to be understood as something intrinsic,
not opposed, to the productive capacities of a contemporary global,
mediated, technology-supported economy. /... / The idea of the CREATIVE INDUSTRIES seeks
to describe the conceptual and practical convergence of the CREATIVE
ARTS (individual talent) with Cultural Industries (mass scale), in the context
of NEW MEDIA TECHNOLOGIES (ICTs) within a NEW KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY, for the use of
newly INTERACTIVE CITIZEN-CONSUMERS.
Whatever the arts are, they are seen as something creative and must be
incorporated into business of, for example, advertising, fashion, and design.
It is also rather common in
this discourse to use “aesthetic” as a synonym for “art.” Or, at least, the
idea is that business people need aesthetic skills but art is the best way to
achieve them. When seen from this
perspective, it is typical to emphasize the importance of sensitivity and one’s
physical body as the primal “interface” to everything around us, thus
approaching the classical Greek meaning of the term aisthesis. Steven S. Taylor and Donna Ladkin wrote: “Aesthetics is the study of this sensuous
knowing, and the arts work from and with this sort of knowing rather than with
knowing based in logic and rational thinking.”
In another paper, Taylor and
Barbara A. Karanian wrote about the “art
of leadership.” This does not loosely mean something like the skill of
leadership but rather a direct link to the art world proper. They used, for example, ideas taken from
Nicolas Bourriaud’s so-called relational aesthetics, which seeks to make sense
of contemporary art world and its practices.
Leadership, to them, should be an art form and create special kinds of
context-sensitive relationships between individuals and within groups in the
same way community artists strive to do.
In addition to such articles
and books on the subject, there are also national and international events such
as the conference Creative Economy and
Beyond and the whole Art of Management and Organization
Conference series, as well as networks and organizations aiming at
combining art with business such as AACORN
(Arts, Aesthetics, Creativity, & Organization Research Network,) and Arts & Business.
3. Why does artification take place?
In discussions that can be
related to artification, art is seen to provide something other than what there
already is in the area or activity to be artified. Some business writers think that the whole
business culture needs to be changed and that art is useful or even necessary
for this change. But why must business, and
perhaps other fields as well, change with the help of art?
Adler gives a list of
factors that affect any business and that must be “mastered” by anyone who
wants to be successful.
These same factors also comprise conditions of operation for artists. The interesting
thing is that such conditions seem to have been commonplace in the art world
for a long time; artists have been forced to learn how to manage with them and
now they can teach these skills to others.
The first of these factors
is the rapidly increasing global interconnectedness of basically everything but
especially things that have an effect on business, such as information
services, markets, material resources, and employees. The point here is that everything that is potentially
global matters. That is, one cannot know
what things are interconnected and might cause radical changes, where and when,
and one must be sensitive to this. This
is something to be learned from artists, as artists are sensitive and ready to
react to everything around them and able to see connections between seemingly
distant matters, so should businessmen be.
On the other hand, as we are
witnessing increasing domination of market forces in all sectors of culture,
and large international companies are partly taking on the role of
nation-states as ruling players in the global economy, and sometimes also
assuming responsibility for such formerly state-run issues like health care or
education. Artists encounter more and
more situations where the co-operating partner is a private company, not a
state-funded organization, non-profit-seeking NGO, religious community, or the
like. The force behind the mixing of art
with business comes not only from the fact that business wants to learn
something from the arts but also from the fact that business is simply a more
common partner for the arts than before.
Adler also claims that
companies have to operate in an increasingly turbulent, complex, and chaotic
environment, which is easy to believe after recent developments in the global market. Where before it was the art world that called
for networking with surprising partners, the business world is now doing the
same and is also learning to act without water-proof evidence and accept sudden
changes and situational improvisation. No
one has certain knowledge what might happen next but one should still be able
to make good decisions. According to
Adler, artists can teach us how this happens, and art is thus seen as a mode of
operation where no “methodological rigor” can be expected.
Furthermore, advances in
technology have decreased the cost of experimentation. With computer aided design (CAD), it is much
easier and cheaper to test a number of different solutions than before. However, in this situation one must have lots
of ideas to experiment with. This, again,
is something Adler thinks artists are particularly good at: coming up with
fresh, new ideas.
The final reason for mixing
art with business is something Adler calls the shift from success to
significance. This means that it is not
enough for employees, owners, and customers that a business should be
profitable in terms of money; it should also be meaningful and important and
even emotionally rewarding. Traditionally,
it has been art, and also religion, sports, and maybe some other fields, of
course, that have provided these things.
Therefore, business could learn from the arts how to work better in this
Although there may be other
background reasons for artification to occur in other situations, those
mentioned by Adler seem to be more commonly recognized, at least in business
discourse. One may have different
opinions on details but the big picture is clear. Globalization has changed the (business)
world and traditional means of operation must thus be re-examined. Artification represents one tool for accomplishing
Yet, it is very difficult on
the general level to provide evidence that art really accomplishes its
instrumental job in the way described by Adler.
It is fairly easy to show that incorporating art into something-else
really changes this something-else in one way or another. But is the change necessarily for the better,
as Adler seems to believe, and in what sense?
Does it result in more income or a better atmosphere? Furthermore, it is extremely hard to show
that nothing else, such as sports or the sciences, could not help achieve
similar results, and that art does its instrumental job better than anything
The claim that artists in
general are more creative, sensitive, and better at offering meaning for our
lives than other people is not a self-evident fact, either. Quite often being an artist means learning
rather conservative techniques, assuming ossified ways of displaying works,
using age-old themes again and again, talking of one’s work with ancient
concepts, and so on. There’s nothing
wrong with this conservative aspect of art as such, but its existence simply
underlines the fact that art is not necessarily any more creative than many
other walks of life. Of course, it is
clear that art is largely different
from normal business practices and thus may look fresh from that perspective. But the same would be true of using the
practices of some religious group, such as the Amish, in business settings,
even if the religion as such should be rather conservative. Thus, the potential innovation comes from the
mix itself, not from art as such.
This is why it was wise of
Adler to provide some examples of concrete cases and not to settle for
presenting only abstract ideas. One of
the most interesting of these cases has to do with the training of medical
doctors, although this is not directly a business context but is closely
related. The point is to show that by
learning how to look at and discuss the visual arts, the students became better
in their medical practices: “After only one year, the art-trained
student-doctors’ [at Yale Medical School] improvement in their diagnostic
skills was more than 25% greater than that of their non-art trained
colleagues.” So, at
least there are encouraging examples. However,
Adler's work mostly remains on the level of generally describing the things
people in business wish to get from
the arts and artists and doesn’t go into detail in describing how business
contexts should be changed so that incorporating art into them would be
possible in practice.
Other writers go a bit
further in this direction. One of them
is Lotte Darsø, mentioned above. In her
book she showed what happens when artists are actually hired by companies. As Adler does, Darsø emphasizes things like
energy, imagination, sensitivity, and expression “which can all be learned from
the arts.” These capacities can help both individual
employees and companies at large to conceptualize things in new ways, through
novel metaphors, to express their ideas better, to get people emotionally
engaged in their jobs, and to strengthen group coherence. For example, by using theater metaphors, Bang
and Olufsen managed to re-conceptualize their understanding of how their retail
stores and operations should be organized.
Also, at Xerox PARC, where many now-common inventions related to
computers like Windows and the mouse were developed, artists played an
important role through their artist-in-residence program. They helped to create
“demos” that made the ideas of the scientists more understandable to others,
especially to engineers. Their artworks
also communicated ideas between scientists and marketing people and thus kept
them alive within the technology center.
They embodied ideas with the help of their skill in handling forms,
sounds, colors, and other materials. However, for a greater understanding of what
all this could mean in the context of artification, we also need to look at a
single case a bit more closely, one that not only provides a picture of why
artification is promoted but also of how it is done.
How does artification manifest itself?
One way of making a
difference between different aspects of artification is to focus on its
conceptual, institutional and practical levels. Here, I illuminate these levels through an
example I know fairly well: my own academic organization at Aalto University.
Aalto University, named
after the renowned architect Alvar Aalto, is a new institution formed when
three formerly independent universities merged: the University of Art and
Design Helsinki, the Helsinki University of Technology, and the Helsinki School
of Economics. Interestingly, the goal of
this merger is not only about mixing art with business, but about mixing art,
technology, business, and education together, which might give a more realistic
picture of how things are often done.
In the bylaw documents of
the university, one of the first things stated is that its mission is to
promote the success of the country of Finland by means of research and
education. It is quite clear that art is
also understood as something that can be harnessed for such purposes, even if
some parts of it may still be “free”—whatever that may mean. In the non-public strategic plans, (mainly
visual) art is seen as something creative, innovative, human, value-laden, and
holistic but also as something that can be combined with the other fields of
In this context, at least
two different artification processes are proceeding side by side, and they both
have their conceptual, institutional, and practical strands. The first process is linked with the art and
business discussion described above, that is, that technology and business
(education) need a new twist that can supposedly be given by the (visual) arts
and by design practices closely related to these arts. Secondly, something that has been called
artistic or art-based research is a topical issue in the academic world and now
has a place at Aalto University. According
to its proponents, academic research should adopt some features of art, and one
of the aims is to find ways to use artistic skills, practices, and ideas in
formulating new scientific or academic knowledge. Opinions
vary on whether these two lines support or oppose each other but, again, some
kind of change is aimed at in both lines.
At its early stage,
combining art with the other fields of the university started as a conceptual
exercise. In its simplest form,
conceptual artification only refers to ways in which people think and talk
about mixing art with something else, and this is how it began at Aalto, too,
through meetings, discussions, and writings.
This seems a fairly easy process, often involving simply using somewhat
different terminology than before. Business
or research is analyzed and dealt with by using ideas and concepts developed in
the arts; they are seen as something where one needs, for instance,
improvisation, taste, emotional engagement, creativity, and other
characteristics mentioned earlier.
exercises can naturally have fundamental effects on how people see the world. Discussion can change our views on what kind
of role art should play in our lives and on what art actually is, that is, what
the intension and the extension of the concept actually is. In the first place, it is not self-evident at
all that art should be seen as something that can be mixed with something else. It all depends on our understanding of the
concept, and there is no general agreement on this within the university, even
if the official documents stress a certain interpretation.
In any case, artification is
not only conceptual pondering but also institutional and practical acting. Aalto University is actually one of the few
institutional realizations of the attitude shown, for example, in the
publication of the Finnish government cited above. It is an institution that has its bylaw
rules, legal status, president, councils, committees, funding structures,
physical settings, and other more or less fixed characteristics.
When taken to this even more
practical level, mixing art with something else has almost endless potential
routes to explore. In a university, the
normal contexts to do this are probably courses, research projects, and
publications. At Aalto, art-oriented
students and teachers, even if they are not a very big part of the
institution’s population, are urged to co-operate with business experts and
engineers and the other way round. There
are joint courses for students coming from different programs, and even courses
organized by a single program can include parts, some of which are close to the
arts, some closer to other fields. On
the research side there is, for instance, a project called aivoAalto that uses modern neuroimaging methods
to examine social interaction, decision-making, and the effect of cinema on the
Essentially, artification can
be seen everywhere throughout this new university. It could even have an impact on the physical
setting, and make rooms and buildings look and feel different. It could change the ways people behave,
dress, and discuss, and it could result in different products (objects and
services) being planned by designers and engineers. It could change the ways events like
conferences and anniversary festivals are organized, and it should have some
effect on the organizational structure of the whole. Whether this will actually happen
remains to be seen.
5. What kinds of things are being accentuated in artification processes?
There are naturally several
different ways to see what is accentuated in artification in business and
elsewhere. For example, Taylor and
Ladkin, in the article cited above, offer one summary of what purposes art can
serve in a company. First, art can
function as “skills transferring means,” that is, skills learned through arts
can be used elsewhere like in the case of GlaxoSmithKline. Second, it provides “projective techniques,”
or it helps people make sense of and express their own inner thoughts and
feelings. Third, in the form of a poem,
novel, painting, and so on, it can help illustrate the “essence” of a
situation, concept, or the like in a different way from a formal definition,
like comparing Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime
and Punishment with a law book. And
fourth, it can provide possibilities for physical, hands-on “making” that
fosters deep experience and a sense of presence in another way than, say,
However, probably most often
the intention seems to be making companies more creative and, especially for their employees, more rewarding emotionally. These
points were mentioned above, and they can also be found in Taylor’s and
Ladkin’s article and in many other publications on the theme. Artists are seen to be specialists in such
issues, and as the skills of the artist are made use of in companies and
corporations, it is hoped that these will become more productive. But what do these points entail if looked at
somewhat more deeply?
First of all, creativity or
innovation often seem to be understood in a fairly simplistic way. The point is not to shake the fundamental
foundations and question, for example, whether economic profit is a primary
value. At the same time, the
fundamentals should be accompanied by some other values, and companies should
not be seen as ice-cold money makers. Yet
a completely creative overhaul of the thinking related to business is not an
option. And so, the solution that is
hoped for would not stress the importance of revolutionary, critical, or
oppositional art but would strive for co-operative, “affirmative,” or, in the
worst case, even co-optative solutions, as Arnold Berleant pointed out in a
discussion (June 20, 2011).
resembles all the former ideas of art that have seen art as something that
should serve the goals of something superior to itself: the state, the church,
or some particular political ideology. Art
redeems its place in a society if it helps achieve the commonly accepted or
otherwise authorized goals of the society.
Thus, if politics is understood in an Aristotelian way as taking care of
common tasks and goals, art assumes its political role by taking part in
building the society. Nowadays, many
seem to believe that this is only possible by taking part in business. This is naturally very different, for example,
from the conflict-based understanding of politics as represented by Jacques
Rancière and from the idea of art developed by Theodor W. Adorno. From their point of view,
artification could mean radical questioning of dominant values and practices that,
in the case of Adorno, is only possible if art preserves its autonomic status
and does not become mixed with anything else in a way that would endanger this
Somewhat paradoxically, the
emphasis on creativity still seems to be related to the modernistic idea of art
as representing the potential for a completely new start or radical break. What makes it strange is this conflicts with
the post-modern aspect of mixing things, often old and new. Modernistic thinking can be characterized as
one that wants to keep different areas of culture separate and that hopes to
find ways for radical new beginnings within them. Postmodernists, in contrast, often question
both the possibility of radically new beginnings and of keeping cultural areas
clean and pure; instead they accept making use of history again and again and
mixing different areas. So, if business
or other artificators accept mixing, why not recycling and making use of old
things, too, especially when very radical change is really not what is hoped
artification seems to value emotional sides of art that are affirmative and
simply positive. Emotions of happiness,
energy, strength, engagement, and enthusiasm are favored. In contrast, the agonistic, shocking,
aggressive, melancholic, insecure, and painful emotions that are common in
contemporary art are not welcome.
If such hopes are taken
seriously, they could have very practical consequences on the education and
practices of artists. According to this
view, artists should learn to be somewhat
innovative but not too radically so. Moreover,
by using their material and other skills, they should learn to evoke positive,
engaging feelings, not uncertainty or anguish. Sometimes it seems that this should even be
done by non-verbal, non-logical, non-propositional, non-intellectual, or
non-rational ways, as suggested by Taylor and Ladkin: “Propositional methods
and forms filter out the feeling and emotion in pursuit of precision, clarity,
and objectivity.” Does
this mean that emphatically conceptual artists do not need to bother?
One does not have to be very
cynical for this to begin to seem a very tame and simplistic understanding of
art. There is a risk of turning art into
some kind of kitschy, entertaining tinkering that would make art studies quite
different from present-day practices, where art studies and works often include
a considerable amount of very theoretical and intellectual development, in
addition to radical criticality and negative feelings.
Still, perhaps the most
interesting consequences of (business) artification come from the mixing
principle itself. In artification discussions, the idea of art is necessarily
non-autonomous. Art might have value in
and for itself, in some contexts, but there are also ways of using art or some
of its features for extra-artistic purposes.
Art might be its own kind of thing but it is not isolated from other
things, and if art is a home-base for creativity, for example, this same
creativity can still be used elsewhere.
Understood in this way, it
seems that something can be more or less art, and art is not an either/or
concept. Its ontological status is not
that of a truly independent entity (object, piece, area) but closer to that of
a quality (hue, taste, tone, shade). Or,
rather that art proper might have a different ontological status than art in
artification processes. The result of
all this is that the “art” of artification becomes some kind of adjective, not a
Thus, it could be thought
that some people are more or less artists, objects can have more or less art
within them, receivers can concentrate on more or less artistic aspects of
things they encounter, and institutions can be more or less art-centered. In general, one should probably not ask
whether this or that is art here and
now but whether something has more or
less art, in a given situation. This, of
course, is quite easy to relate to very different conceptions of art, from
Dissanayake’s essential ideas to the ones presented by business writers above. From the business point of view, whenever
something is highly creative and emotionally engaging, it has lots of art in it
or is strongly artified.
If artists operate in their
studios, workshops, concert halls, theaters, museums, galleries, and other
art-specific surroundings, artifiers work somewhere else: at companies,
hospitals, shops, offices, academic research groups, and the like. And if artists produce works of art,
artifiers take part in producing discussions, design processes, health care
services, and so on. Furthermore, if
artists typically use certain techniques and materials, such as specific brush
maneuvers on oil and canvas, artifying is not restricted in such a way but may
make use of any materials and techniques available. And again, traditional art typically has an
audience but if there is anything comparable to that in artification, its role
is different, often probably closer to the one of the user or participator than
of the on-looker (listener). All this
has a bearing on both the intension and extension of the concept of art as
Artification might come
close to some contemporary forms of art proper, such as co-operative community
art. But in the case of community art,
it is normally pretty clear that someone is working quite emphatically as an
artist, and projects are typically documented and presented to the art world,
which does not have to be the case in artification processes. The common factor is that both artists and
artifiers may help people in different contexts in articulating things with the
help of colors, sounds, words, acting, and so on, without actually producing
works that should be exhibited and looked at as individual objects. They may also help people be more emotional
and innovative, as business writers hope.
Traditionally, art as a mode of operation has been liberal and tolerant
as regards experimentation and failures; it might offer a secure context for
acting in an experimental way. However,
this kind of action often requires an artist to be some sort of moderator who,
in turn, should be able to create an atmosphere of openness, trust, and
innovation and also give help with materials and techniques.
If taken seriously,
educating people as artifiers, not artists, would teach skills that make this
kind of atmosphere-creation and communication moderation possible. The process would perhaps include not so many
traditional painting and drawing workshops but put more emphasis on (social)
psychology, verbal and non-verbal situational communication abilities, and on
the means with which to handle (ethical) problems that artified situations
might cause, as these can touch upon highly emotional personal issues. For example, how would one deal with the
situation if someone, during an artified personnel training workshop, produced
a picture that evoked acute anguish and fear in someone? Art school curricula would look very
different, indeed, when compared to traditional systems if such issues were to be
emphasized more strongly.
Artification would not need
art-specific institutions, objects, techniques, audiences, materials, and, indeed,
not even artists to exist as a process and produce results. It should be enough if a company or some
other entity has some art in it and in
its processes, objects, and persons. However,
while this may be enough to satisfy the needs of individual companies and in
the actual artification processes, clearly art-specific art is still needed:
schools, persons, and objects that emphatically focus on art and carry on the
tradition of autonomy. This is because,
as we saw above, artification cannot exist without art proper as its point of
reference. However, it is a different
matter to consider which aspects of this point of reference will be accentuated
in artification processes; business discourse has its own choices such as
(tame) creativity, positive emotions, and non-propositional acting but other
contexts may choose differently.
What have we learned? First, artification means mixing art with
something else that presupposes both art and something else. Second, almost anything can become artified
but there are some sectors of contemporary culture that have developed this
option more actively than others. Third,
the reasons for artification may vary but often they seem to be connected to
larger cultural changes. The world
changes and these changes presuppose changes in people’s thinking and acting,
and art is believed to be helpful in this.
Fourth, artification can occur in many ways and on many levels, from
conceptual exercises through institutions to quite physical and practical
accomplishments. And, lastly, the
decision about which of the things that were originally developed within the
art world proper will in turn be favored in artification processes varies on a
If one wants to understand
this phenomenon in its various forms, these five issues should not be analyzed
separately but must be combined. The
artification process has an effect on the conceptualization of art: which aspects of it are emphasized, how it is
accomplished, and the perception of why the whole process is deemed necessary
in the first place.
Naukkarinen is Head of Research at the Aalto University School of Arts, Design, and
Architecture. Helsinki, Finland. He has published books and articles, both in
English and Finnish, on everyday aesthetics, mobile culture, and environmental
and visual arts.
Published on April 5, 2012.
 Taiteistuminen, eds. Yrjänä Levanto, Ossi Naukkarinen and Susann Vihma (Helsinki:
Taideteollinen korkeakoulu, 2005).
Ellen Dissanayake, “An Ethological View of Music and its Relevance to Music
Therapy,” Nordic Journal of
Music Therapy 10: 2 (2001), 159-175. See also Ellen Dissanayake, Homo Aestheticus. Where Art Comes From and
Why (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1992).
 Paul-Oskar Kristeller, “The Modern System of the
Arts,” in Essays on the History of
Aesthetics, ed. Peter Kivy (Rochester: University of Rochester Press,
1992), pp. 3-64. Larry Shiner, The
Invention of Art. A Cultural History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
Ellen Dissanayake, “What Art Is
and What Art Does: An Overview of Contemporary Evolutionary Hypotheses,” in Evolutionary and Neurogocnitive Approaches to Aesthetics, Creativity,
and the Arts, eds. Colin Martindale, Paul Locher and Vladimir M. Petrov
(Amityville: Baywood Publishing Company, Inc., 2007), pp. 1-14.
Bürger, Theory of the Avant-Garde
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), especially pp. 47-54; translation
from the German by Michael Shaw.
Joseph Kosuth, ”Art after Philosophy,” in
Art in Theory 1900-1990, eds. Charles Harrison & Paul Wood (Oxford &
Cambridge: Blackwell, 1998), pp. 840-850; Ad Reinhardt, “Art-as-Art,” in Art as Art: The Selected Writings of Ad
Reinhardt, ed. Barbara Rose (New York: The Viking Press, 1975), pp. 53-56.
Wolfgang Welsch, Unsere postmoderne
Moderne. Dritte Auflage (Weinheim: VCH, 1991).
tend to understand the aesthetic as something that refers to emotionally
rewarding, personal sense perceptions that are typically dealt with the help of
a certain, historically developed terminology. What this means in more detail
calls for a longer analysis than is possible in this essay. See my article “Why
Beauty Still Cannot Be Measured,” Contemporary
Aesthetics (Vol. 8, 2010).
Nancy J. Adler, “The Arts &
Leadership: Now That We Can Do Anything, What Will We Do?” Academy
of Management Learning and Education Journal, vol. 5 (no. 4) 2006, 486-499,
ref. on 488. Although I now concentrate on the contemporary art and business
discourse, it has its historical predecessors. One could follow this strand
backwards, for example, via Bauhaus design tradition to the British
arts-and-crafts movement but this would require a separate study.
Lotte Darsø, Artful Creation. Learning-Tales of
Arts-in-Business (Frederiksberg: Samfundslitteratur, 2004).
Decision-in-Principle on Arts and Artist Policy. Publications of the Ministry of Education
2003:23 (Helsinki: Ministry of Education, 2003), p.
 John Hartley, “Introduction,” in Creative Industries, ed. John Hartley (Malden, Oxford, Carlton:
Blackwell Publishing, 2005), ref. on p. 5.
All the italics and capitals from the original text.
S. Taylor and Donna Ladkin, “Understanding Art-Based Methods in Managerial
Development,” Academy of Management
Learning & Education (Vol. 8(1), 2009), 55-69, ref. on 56.
Steven S. Taylor and Barbara A. Karanian, “Working Connection: The Relational
Art of Leadership,” Aesthesis:
International Journal of Art and Aesthetics in Management and Organizational
Life (Vol. 2(2), 2009), 15-22. They write from the perspective of
management and leadership studies, which is close to organization studies.
There, perhaps the best known spokesperson for aesthetics is Antonio Strati.
However, he makes a clear distinction between aesthetics and art: “Aesthetic
understanding should not be confused with artistic understanding.” Antonio
Strati, “The Aesthetic Approach in Organizational Studies,” in The Aesthetics of Organizations, eds.
Stephen Linstead & Heather Höpfl (London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: SAGE
Publications, 2000), pp. 13-32, ref. on p. 17.
this discussion, see The Art of Research.
Research Practices in Art and Design, eds. Maarit Mäkelä & Sara
Routarinne (Helsinki: University of Art and Design Helsinki, 2006), Scrivener
and Zheng’s article in this volume, as well as the web-based Journal for Artistic Research.
fact, the attitude of combining art with business and other fields was not new
for the former University of Art and Design but had been incorporated in its
basic point of departure since its early history starting in late-nineteenth
century. The idea was and still is much more innovative and radical for the two
Taylor & Ladkin, p. 56 and passim.
 Taylor & Ladkin, pp. 56-57.