The Work of Art: an Ethnography of Contemporary Art Production in Osaka

Third Thursday lecture - Sainsbury Institute

Thursday 18 June, 2015
6:00pm BST


Dr Iza Kavedžija (Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow)

About the Talk

The contemporary art scene in Osaka today is characterized by its rejection of the conventional paths to artistic success. Freedom from the demands for a coherent and consistent opus and streamlined career path allows for the creation of new forms of expression that transcend genre boundaries. This lecture presents an ethnographic study of young contemporary artists involved in improvised music and dance, painting and multimedia installations. It seeks to understand art as a form of work and the conditions of creativity, drawing on artists’ own accounts of how they acquire, mould and fabricate their ideas, resolve creative stoppages, and collaborate with others.

About the Speaker

Iza is a social anthropologist whose current research interests centre on the social dimensions of creativity, motivation, life choices, and wellbeing. Her doctoral research examined the creation of meaning in life among older people in Osaka, and more recently she has explored narratives of hope and hopelessness in contemporary Japanese society.

Her current project is based on an ethnographic study of a group of young contemporary artists in Osaka, focusing on their experiences of the creative process as well as their ideas of meaningful work and the good life. Spanning a wide range of artistic genres, from improvised music and dance performances to multimedia installations, painting and sculpture, the project will aim to further our understanding of the world of Japanese contemporary art production through a focus on the social networks, values, and life choices of the artists themselves. At the same time, the research will seek to address broader questions about the relationship between cooperation, creativity and freedom in the context of art production. For example: how can or should artistic pursuits be balanced with other forms of work? What kinds of freedoms promote creativity, and when can too much freedom become a burden? What kinds of rules and constraints are beneficial for creativity? In what ways is creativity an inherently social process?

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The Third Thursday Lecture series is funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and Yakult UK.