Organizing in the Public Interest

Participatory Organizing and Art’s Organizational Turn


  • Ditte Vilstrup Holm Copenhagen Business School


Participatory art, organization, art’s organizational turn, Kester, Bishop, Law


Art’s engagement with social practices has promoted reflections in art theory about strategies of organizing. Whether in the form of temporary self-organized initiatives, interventions into society or as the possibility of art developing alternative, sustainable organizations, questions of organizing come to the fore. In this article, I suggest that art theory will benefit from engaging with organizational theory, and I point to sociologist John Law’s concept of “modes of ordering” as a useful analytical tool with which to study the organizing practices involved in and affecting contemporary art. In particular, the article targets the field of participatory practices and suggests that they might be interpreted as the effect of cross-institutional modes of ordering. The potential of such an analysis is twofold. First, it offers an alternative analytical entrance point into the field of participatory practices, as opposed to the two dominant positions of a durational-dialogical and a conflictual-interventionist perspective. Second, it underlines how organizational processes cut across disciplinary fields and institutional barriers, generating networks of processual relations that support and strengthen certain practices, while challenging and impeding other practices.


Ditte Vilstrup Holm, Copenhagen Business School

Ditte Vilstrup Holm is postdoc at Copenhagen Business School. She holds an MA in art history from Goldsmiths College and the University of Copenhagen, and a PhD in organization studies from CBS. Her work focuses on public art, commissioning processes and cultural participation. She is currently conducting a study on the aesthetic organizing of communities under the research program “Art and social communities,” co-funded by the Danish Arts Foundation and Art Council Norway. In September 2020, she will commence a 3-year New Carlsberg Foundation post.doc project on building-related public art in collaboration with KØS — Museum of Art in Public Spaces.


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