Culture as Display: Epistemic and Organizational Contingencies of 'Art/Science' Collaboration


  • Björn Wallmark



This paper offers and reflects upon an organizational ethnography of a renowned cultural institution. The cultural institution in question, a foreign academy in Mexico City, brought together a select range of art and research fellows for a transdisciplinary residency program. Inviting a hybrid form of "art/science" collaboration, the cultural institution soon faced a "permissive paradox" (Heinich 2014); namely, how to support a transdisciplinary program that prima facie called into question the institution's very existence. How would different constituencies of institution members, ranging from senior trustees to resident fellows, mobilize "culture as display" (Sharrock and Anderson 2011)? And how would they do so to either dramatize or downplay said paradox, thereby configuring, and eventually deconstructing, the contended program and intended institution? The paper offers a reflexive ethnography in answer to these questions by probing the author's experience, while taking its cue from Wes Sharrock's longstanding plea for an unprejudiced sociology.