Introducing March’s theme: Art and Representation

Above illustration by Olivia Wilson, 2021.

Priya Sharma and Paul Jones

Every month we have a very exciting batch of themed blogs, original images and illustrations, book reviews and free-to-view articles to share with you via our digital platforms. Throughout March we turn our attention to art and representation, covering a set of related topics that have proved rich sites of analysis for sociological inquiry.

Social arrangements imply their representation; cultural reflections of the very sets of structures and experiences that characterise social life emerge from attempts to illuminate and amplify some things about these structures and experiences that are otherwise less evident. Sociology – as always, to be broadly understood – involves the interrogation both of the forms of art and representation that result from such activity, as well as the sets of practices and assumptions that lead to their creation.  

It is against this backdrop that we are delighted to be able to bring you a set of excellent pieces of writing, which address a range of distinct-but-related questions emerging from art and representation. Pierre d’Alancaisez’s blog piece interrogates art’s ideas of political solidarity and allyship as they appear today, asking whether artists and institutions are enacting frameworks of solidarity or merely lobbying for their own interests.

Also asking far-reaching questions connecting to art and political economy, Shih Chang’s blog piece ‘All Museums are Unique but also the Same?’ explores homogeneity and standardisation of the museum institution globally.  As sites of representational display entangled with social arrangements, museums also play a central role in Linnea Wallen’s piece that engages with sociological understandings of community engagement and outreach programmes in this instutional context.

Siobhan McGuirk offers a timely analysis of virtual spaces taken up by arts institutions during the coronavirus pandemic, considering the aesthetic and cultural trends to emerge during this period. In another piece exploring cultural trends during the pandemic, Sam Aldersley argues that a resurgence in vinyl record sales has partially been brough about by a desire to stabilise some forms of social meaning in an otherwise-uncertain world. 

In their co-produced piece, Annastasia Maksymluk and the artist Adriette Mybur range across a number of important issues relating to visualisation of commercial and artistic spaces, utilising theoretical and artistic insights in the process. In a provocative piece, thoughtful and thought provoking despite running counter to many contemporary analyses that suggest a lack of autonomy for representational activity/judgement, Orsolya Bajusz argues that “art should not mix with politics”.

In terms of our visual offering this month – and as with all of our digital themes – we have an Image Maker in Residence. Laura Harris, a talented sociological filmmaker, uses film and still images to explore art-adjacent labour, which is crucial to the functioning of the gallery, and the production of sites of representation in and around exhibitions. Additionally, we also have the work of illustrator Olivia Wilson to look forward to; these wonderful artistic images have been produced especially with the theme in mind.

Additionally, we have three papers that connect with our theme this month that will be free to view throughout the month. We really hope that you enjoy all this material as much as we have.

-Priya Sharma and Paul Jones (members of TSR Digital Team)

Illustration by Olivia Wilson, 2021.
Illustration by Olivia Wilson, 2021.

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