Instituting with Care: How Might Art Institutions Care Well?

Lopez, Lucy (2024) Instituting with Care: How Might Art Institutions Care Well? Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.

Lucy Lopez PhD Thesis published_Final version_Submitted Oct 2023_Final Award Jan 2024.pdf - Accepted Version

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The field of care, ranging from community care to ecology, from labour conditions to anti-racism, has been increasingly used as a source of programme content for UK art institutions. I argue that this proliferation of programming on the topic of care functions as a ‘care fix’ as described by Dowling (2021): it has the tendency to displace, rather than resolve, the issues at hand. While practices of care are central to how we organise our lives, we are living through a care crisis, made more visible through the impacts of the global Covid-19 pandemic (Dowling, 2021; Care Collective, 2020; Bunting, 2020). My positive aim is to examine ways to move from the care fix, to instead care well, or, as well as possible in this context. I define caring well in terms of art institutions, drawing on Fisher and Tronto’s seminal definition of care as maintaining our world (1990) and the updated definition posed by Puig de la Bellacasa (2017), moving towards more-than-human and as-well-as-possible worlds.

Chapters 1, 2, and 3 draw a connection and a narrative thread between the concepts of publics, of instituting, and of care, framing a crisis of care within art institutions characterised by widespread ruptures which make visible discrepancies between programming and public statements on one hand, and internal workings on the other. I argue for the reconciliation of these two aspects as a Foucauldian practice of parrhesia, or care of the self. Looking at care work and theory across the themes of our bodies, our selves, and our environments, I make connections to the field of curatorial research and practice, drawing some preliminary conclusions as to how art institutions might care well, and avoid the care fix, through instituting with integrity, and caring in ways that are are abundant, equitable, and long-lasting. Chapters 4 and 5 present and analyse material from my partner organisation Eastside Projects, an artist-led NPO in Birmingham, UK, where I co-curated the project Policy Show, 2017, with director Gavin Wade. Using Policy Show as a case study, I argue that instituent practices enable environments of care to the extent that they are able to make meaningful connections between the logos and bios of the institution. Analysing the project outcomes, I argue that, while practising with care in the current crisis might be impossible, it is imperative both to care as well as possible in the circumstances, and to perform care as if it were possible, thus enacting as-well-as-possible worlds.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
6 October 2023Submitted
12 January 2024Accepted
Uncontrolled Keywords: Care, curating, publics, institutions, art
Subjects: CAH25 - design, and creative and performing arts > CAH25-01 - creative arts and design > CAH25-01-02 - art
Divisions: Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > Birmingham School of Art
Depositing User: Jaycie Carter
Date Deposited: 04 Mar 2024 11:23
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2024 11:23

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