A Multi-Level Structural Approach Towards Canon-Formation

January 17, 2019

What is the underlying mechanism of the process during which a group of work is considered valuable, authentic and worthy of advocacy, whereas others remain unsupported and overlooked?

Júlia Perczel, a PhD candidate at the Department of Network and Data Science investigates this question from a multi-level approach to better understand the structural properties of canon-formation in the art world.

Examining the field of canon construction, she studies the interrelation between the formation process and the Central and Eastern European artists’ identity, as well as the collection’s narrative on the (CEE) region.

Júlia works with big data that contains the collections' information and the artists’ exhibition information in three noted museums: the Tate, the MoMA, and the Centre Pompidou.

Analysis of artist ranking has shown that the higher an artist’s rank, the more complete his/her bibliography, thus they are well-visible and noticeable that leads to an accumulated advantage of these already higher ranked artists. Occupying a central position in the art world means being central in multiple senses. Therefore, in order to understand core-periphery relations, one has to reflect on the configuration and practices that (re)produces these hierarchies. Paying close attention to the objectivity of the data is crucial in minimizing biases rooted in its context and historical nature, so one can avoid reproducing the power structure that produces the bias in the first place.

Thus Júlia takes the museum perspective to extract information encapsulated by the set of artists of each collection and conducted a truly multi-level analysis on the micro, meso and macro level interaction representation.

On the micro level, she focused on the CEE artists in the three, aforementioned museums’ collection; specifically, on the artist-institution interactions to explore how artists’ and venues’ identity forms through transformative events.

On the meso level, Júlia aims to connect each museum with the venues in which their artists exhibited to map the local canons. In other words, she explores how the micro level interactions add up to represent distinctive narratives. Finally, on the macro level, collection-collection interactions are examined to reveal how local canons contribute to conflict and cooperation in a structural sense.

Employing this structural-relational approach, Júlia connects theoretically and links operationally multilevel field theory with the discourse on the meaning structure in artistic canon-formation.

This unique research calls for exciting travel across social, political and cultural institutions and practices embedded in space, time and different contexts to understand how canon-formation works.

Blog post by Rebeka O. Szabó