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Collaborative challenges: Negotiating the complicities of socially engaged art within an era of neoliberal urbanism

Cecilie Sachs Olsen, in: D Society and Space, SAGE Publishing, 2017

This article provides a close and practice-led investigation into the complexities and complicities
of politicised collaborative art within an era of neoliberal urbanism. In addressing these
complicities from a practice-led perspective, the paper provides a nuanced account of the
social functions of art based on critical perspectives relating to issues of urban politics as well
as politics of collaboration, participation and representation. Reflecting on experiences with
facilitating socially engaged artistic projects in Basel, Monthey and London, I demonstrate the
challenges faced when struggling to adhere to the artistic aims of providing transformative
experiences, while at the same time working within various neoliberal and institutional
constraints and expectations. Rather than succumbing into totalising narratives about how art
practices are inevitably instrumentalised as they become part of neoliberal structures, logics and
ambitions, the paper emphasises the need to think more carefully about the politics of this
practice in terms of how it constantly negotiates and reflects the subtle power relations that
exist between artists and their collaborators in urban contexts.

Cecilie Sachs Olsen_Collaborative challenges