Description and Objectives

The workshop focuses primarily on contemporary art as a medium for social innovation, engaging both academics and artists on topics such as feminism, social integration, and the status of images in contemporary society. The other aim is to sketch a new paradigm for the social sciences by engaging the artists, who may help reframe the language social scientists use by providing a kind of ‘architectonics’ that may help connect different disciplines and discourses. Thus, the other aim is instrumental to the former, for social innovation is effected by a new discourse created by dialogue and cross-contamination of languages and practices with different sites of address (conference room and exhibition room). The idea (second aim) is to use contemporary art as a device to connect people with languages and mentalities that seem distant and aloof, and that by way of metaphors and visual parables could become open and accessible. Artists will engage with academics in an effort to push boundaries and redefine the terms of specialized discourses: artworks may help structure ideas and inspire policy initiatives (first aim) across the divide between disciplines.

The workshop acknowledges the dwindling of specialist art criticism and the emergence of a contested role: the curator; it aims to connect art with specialist audiences, where social scientists, historians and anthropologists address socially sensitive issues by engaging with contemporary art. The objective is to negotiate a new intellectual dimension, a liminal space that challenges the boundary between the conference room and the exhibition room (or the museum), a visual discourse in which conventional roles (notably ‘the artist’ and ‘the scientist’) are defied. Concepts such as “visual discourse analysis” and “rethinking the social with the image” seem to define a new inter_ disciplinary field of enquiry, encompassed by such journals as Visual Communication, Discourse and Society, and Qualitative Inquiry.

One of the aims of the workshop is to show the extent to which other disciplines and discourses have dealt with applied art-based research: scholars in business and management theory have created the field of “artistic interventions in organizations” and the Journal of Business Research has hosted papers on “meaningful work,” “value-creation processes,” “arts for human resource”, and “arts based initiatives for creativity and innovation”. It has been argued that “the idea of artists accepting managers’ invitations to work in an organization outside the art-world for hours, days, or even months appears antithetical because they have such different values” and this new field of inquiry aims at vindicating the idea of mutual cooperation between artists and organizations. Over the past twenty years, an abundance of art interventions used aesthetics to affect social dynamics in a logic of mutual implication between art and political action: not only art was amenable to political uses, but political activism per se was considered as an art-form. Museums and curators had become, respectively, sites and agents of political activism, and similarly Occupy Wall Street was greeted as a major artistic achievement. Claire Bishop theorized a new form of socially engaged participatory aesthetic that places at the forefront the artist in arms, or disruptive political acts as artworks. This is beyond the concerns of this workshop, whose aim is to find new ways, and a new paradigm, to articulate issues. It has been argued that “there is a growing interest in the use of visual thinking techniques for promoting conceptual thinking”. This workshop expands this argument by using the visual arts as a medium to access specialized discourses.

Participants will convene on Thursday, June 20 in the Faculty of Economics and Management of the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano (FUB). The autonomous province of Bozen-Bolzano was praised by the Journal Cities for its commitment to innovation and cultural participation. The Province has adopted ad hoc measures with the aim of supporting the creative economy and transforming the region in an environment suitable to innovation at all levels (social, educational, and entrepreneurial). Furthermore, the Law of the Province 9/2015 acknowledges the “right to cultural activity and participation” and supports activities aiming at establishing publishing houses, film productions, etc.

The Research Cluster on “Law, Economics, and Institutions” of the Faculty of Economics and Management wishes to expand its role in South Tyrol with initiatives that challenge the bounda_ ries between the different missions of the FUB: we expect to contribute new research questions to debates on the role of contemporary art in society, engage students to work and study across boundaries, and collaborate with local institutions (such as the ‘Consorzio Lavoratori Studenti’, the platform ‘Voltaire – European Education Center’ and the ‘Centro Trevi’) in a spirit of mutual exploration.

The workshop is sponsored by the Fondazione Pietro e Alberto Rossini (

We expect to publish a book (with images) of conversations among artists, academics and practi_ tioners. This workshop will help contribute four main chapters, respectively on feminism (and #MeToo), fiction and politics, social integration, the role of images in contemporary society, and the uses of memory in politics.