Edited by Barbara Czarniawska
Chapter 12: Art, aesthetics and organization
Could it be, then, that aesthetics are what prime the pump of life? Only in our modern haste to reduce everything to a means to an end, an efficient means to an ever-receding end, we are confused, and mightily so, by the place of art. Having elevated art as both commodity and metaphysical substance, having imprisoned art in museums, galleries, and boardrooms, having thus separated art from the artisan, having opposed ‘art’ to the ‘useful’, have we not become blind to the force of the aesthetic, of beauty, if you will, coursing through everyday life? Surely beauty is as much infrastructure as are highways and bridges, storytelling and the Internet, rainfall and global warming? (Michael Taussig, Beauty and the Beast, 2012: 5) Is there any form or process of organization that does not embody an aesthetic? Can one imagine organizational practices that are not predicated on – and contributing to – the shaping, engineering or disruption of perception, moods and feelings? There is not; and one can’t. Organization invariably is an atmospheric phenomenon. It takes shape as a swirl of affect, constructed from constellations of objects, stories, technologies, texts, human bodies and their affective capacities. Such constellations solidify into what the philosopher Jacques Rancière called ‘distributions of the sensible’, which condition what can be sensed and what makes sense. Framing the question of organization as one of art and aesthetics therefore means inquiring into the processes and forces that govern, modulate and change the ‘knots’ of what can be sensed, felt, expressed and acted upon.
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