(Un)bearable freedom : Exploring the becoming of the artist in education, work and family life

Abstract: The aim of this dissertation is to explore and understand three important social contexts for the becoming of an artistic subjectivity: education, work and family life. The empirical data consist of interview material with alumni from the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm, staff of the institute, and a survey material from the Swedish National Artists Organization (KRO/KIF). Generally, the thesis employs a theory of conflicting understandings of labour as well as the importance of discourses and narratives for the formation of subjects. The contribution of the thesis is the analysis of a continuing conflict between being and working as an artist actualized in the social contexts explored. The arts education encouraged a romanticized understanding of art as unrelated to market value, which clashed against societal norms of career progression, survival and supporting a family. This conflict informed the subjective way in which the respondents related to their activities as artists, workers and relatives. The concept of freedom can be understood as mediating this conflict in the sense of forming the basis of attraction to the arts but also a burden as it relates to insecurity. The analysis found several subjective representations of the artist that indicate strong norms of individuality and self-direction, understood as the outcome of a working life fraught with personal responsibility for coping with insecurity. As such, the thesis is part of ongoing research on changes in working life towards non-standard and sometimes precarious working conditions.

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