EXIT 07: Has your business given attention to the arts lately? Do it!

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…not just for pure pleasure, but to lead your business further. Years ago, in 2002, I wrote an article in Ledelse i Dag with Christian Madsbjerg (ReD Associates) about this; ‘Lær af avantgarden’ (published in Ledelse i Dag, nr. 48, april 2002) what business can learn from the avantgarde (log-in for full text). At the beginning of the new millennium, the arts-in-business alliance was definitely put on the agenda, in public, in research and in the arts and business development.

Today, the message that business can grow from understanding and converting movements within contemporary art into business, is still relevant. This advice is not just about business investing in up-coming artists, to gain profit on their art works and having them decorate the office space – but about business learning from the processes and conceptual ideas of the avantgarde. And about business leaders staying updated on the contemporary art scene.

What business can learn from the avantgarde
Companies or leaders that understand to develop their competencies, products and services through dialogues with contemporary art movements or in co-operation with artists often stands strong and get a leap ahead in the competition. Why? Because contemporary art – especially the avantgarde – points towards our future. The avantgarde movements shine a light on what the established, mainstream society still isn’t ready to see or face. That’s a potential for leaders to translate and convert into business.

For the article in Ledelse i Dag I had the pleasure of discussing this subject with such interesting people as artist Bjørn Nørgaard, architect Merete Ahnfeldt-Mollerup, Svend Lundh, CEO at Collection Källemo AB, Superflex artist Jakob Fenger, Michael Rasmussen, VELUX communication and brand manager and Johnny Quist Mortensen, managing director of VELUX. All of them explain how they succesfully have worked with the arts or artists in business.

The points in the article start from an outlining of how the historical avantgarde confronted a past of more closed, static or finished works of art, and broke with it through working with a focus on process orientation, the conceptual and an involvement of the spectator as part-taker in completing the art work. By analogy with this, the article argues that we in 2002 accordingly saw a development in business where many successful companies focused on designing processes and platforms with room for content development by users and consumers: Flexible products and services with room for individual dreams and needs of consumers, rather than static prefabricated products. Those flexible consumer-scapes aim for high customer involvement and leave room for consumer driven product development and customization. Many of these consumer platforms place the relational and the community at center stage. A new customer character mixed of the roles of the consumer and producer came at play, often named the ‘prosumer’. (Quite like the new role of the spectator in historical avantgarde art). Then along came web 2.0, communities as MySpace, YouTube, LinkedIn, Amazon, eBay, Flickr, del.icio.us, mitkbh, blogging, you name it…

A spot where you can be inspired and pick up the latest vibes on the contemporary art scene is at EXIT 07 – the final exhibition of the graduates from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, displayed at Kunstforeningen Gl. Strand – that I just recently saw and where the pics in this blog post are from. It’s worth seing and shows ‘till July 8th.

Not to be compared to any larger movements in the avantgarde arts, but picking up inspiration at EXIT 07 two things struck me:

* The creation of illusions and the use of techniques, optic tricks or change of context to turn the old into something new
As the fine optic illusion of a humming-bird by movement (artist Tove Storch), the now well established but at EXIT 07 also well done photo realistic painting technique with paint on canvas, and the sculpturesquely display of objects from contexts where they had no status as sculptures.
    Like art works often do, these pieces invite us to have another look at the world before our eyes. We think we have seen it all before. Then it turns out to be something different, dressed in the recognizable, but turned up-side down – here by the mixing of genres, by relocating objects from one context to a new, or by the use of intelligent tricks, ideas, techniques or technology – like in times of illusions. Are those these times?

* Controlling the world and nature through cultivation of micro-cosmoses
Either at a small or over dimensioned scale – that draws the spectator close, to leave out the rest of the big world; like controlled micro-worlds as those a child constructs with toys, bricks or stuff from the beach or woods. At EXIT 07 the nostalgic reference of childhood is explicit, in installations, sculptures and micro-sceneries. So is the micro-cosmos management of nature in reserves or sanctuaries, as it is done with pets or reptiles.
    The conflict between nature/culture is an often told story – but never the less still a highly relevant topic during recent climate debates. Wild nature is a somewhat nostalgic idea today. Our planet is cultivated, and most of the remaining wild nature is contained in reserves or under protection of UNESCO and the like. There seems an irony connected to the micro-cosmoses displayed at EXIT 07. An ironic tale of our concepts of nature as a well organized and controllable force, preserved in show cases. But the micro-cosmoses displayed at EXIT 07 also make one wonder if these are times of a need among people to stay detailed with a focus on their own managable micro-worlds, where a part of our future is our growing engagement in context-orientated ‘pocket’ or sub communities in an otherwise polarized and unmanagable world? Or is the world just getting smaller, being reflected in a single leaf or in the echo-system of one sanctuary, as in the show cases at EXIT 07, that seem to offer small islands of privacy, ‘nerdyness’ or closeness.

A third thing to mention about EXIT 07 is the humor present in many of the art works at display – an element I really like in contemporary works of art. Check out the photo of the bike/ladder! And also Tommy Petersen, in addition part of Akassen (art group) and Troels Sandegård are EXIT 07 artists that I definately think will do work worth watcing in the future!

Visit EXIT 07 to see what it tells you! And what questions it leaves you with about our future, that might inspire you to grow new solutions…

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