On Agency

“On Agency”, part 2 of the 3-part workshop series “Circulation of knowledge, agency and branding in a museum setting”

Date: TBC
Time: 10.00 – 17.00
Venue: Stedelijk and seminar room (TBC)
Open to: postgraduate and research students, members of the Huizinga Institute and NICA
Credits: 1 ECTS (available upon request)
Coordination: Eve Kalyva
Maximum no. of participants: 12
Language: English
Registration: Contact NICA coordinator Eloe Kingma at nica-fgw@uva.nl

What is agency and how does it manifest in a museum setting? We can empirically understand our agency as our capacity to carry out an intentional action, while at the same time acknowledging the limitations we might face in executing it and the value judgements we make in the process. However, it is more challenging to acknowledge and understand how the agencies of other actors shape and impact the world as we experience it.

This workshop explores the concept of agency and how it is articulated in a museum setting by using the Stedelijk’s collection and exhibition design as a case study. Through both on site practical activities and in class discussion, we will consider:

  • How does agency enter the discussion around art and our experience of it?
  • What agencies manifest themselves in a museum setting and how are these conditioned?
  • How can agency be strengthened or challenged?

This workshop gives you the opportunity to better understand and explore the concept of agency in practical terms. It will enrich your capacity to apply and transfer theoretical knowledge and, combining it with direct experience, you will become better equipped in analysing culture and art in more concrete ways. You will equally be able to evaluate the practices of art institutions and other agents of cultural production in a real-life setting, as well as to conceptualise and test out alternative scenarios. This workshop will benefit students who study culture, art, philosophy, sociology and curating; it fosters critical thinking, observation and collaboration.

Preparatory assignment

Students should prepare a paragraph on how they understand agency and/or relevant references and quotes to be presented in class.

References (texts will be provided)

Pierre Bourdieu, “The Field of Cultural Production, or: The Economic World Reversed”, Poetics, 12:4-5 (1983), pp.311-56 (excerpts will be specified prior to the workshop)

Alfred Gill, Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory (Clarendon Press, 1998), pp.16-23; pp.126-33

  • 10.00 – 11.00 Introductory discussion
  • 11.00 – 11.30 Transfer to the Stedelijk
  • 11.30 – 13.00 On-site activities
  • 13.00 – 14.00 Lunch break; transfer to seminar room
  • 14.00 – 16.00 In-class activities
  • 16.00-17.00 Round-up discussion