The geographies of knowledge in (making) artwork : The field, the art studio and the art scene

University dissertation from Uppsala University : Department of Social and Economic Geography

Abstract: This thesis is concerned with the professional knowledge processes that contemporary visual artists develop and use in their construction of art as well as of their careers. In contributing to the geographical literature on professional learning and artistic labour, the thesis explores the question of how self-employed artists generate, apply and communicate their knowledge and skills in the context of individual work projects.Drawing on London-based visual artists’ narratives and on material traces of their work processes – such as sketchbooks, collected objects and prototypes – the thesis presents artists as actors who learn through embodied but also mobile and geographically-sensitive processes.I argue that knowledge practice in the visual arts is the outcome of embodiment and individual experience, and hence that understanding practical knowledge and skills in this sphere requires us to explore the corporeal embeddedness of learners’ perception and action in their local environments. We must be alert to the various characters of artistic knowledge, involving non-cognitive, affective, haptic and emotive as well as cognitive, rational and reflective elements. Knowledge within the visual arts, in short, is multi-dimensional. The generation of artists’ knowledge, understandings and insights are suggested to be dependent and encouraged by different resources and stimuli acquired from a variety of spaces.The thesis demonstrates this multi-dimensionality by showing how artists construct their art, knowledge, careers and professional development through moving between different workspaces, and by exploring the mobile agencies that connect and separate such spaces. I argue that it is through movements – not only of artists but also of their work material – that knowledge and pieces of art emerge. In illustrating these movements, this study explores the micro-geographical knowledge sites of the field, the studio and the art scene. 

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