Development of a certain artwork is deeply enmeshed in an intricate system of conventions. Taking its impetus from Danto (1964), White and White (1965), Becker (1974), Bourdieu (1987), and DiMaggio and Powell (1983), I argue that the emergence and development trajectory of Latvian contemporary visual arts field during the early 1990s was not defined solely by the products of individual makers, but it, rather, reflected joint products of all the people and organisations who collaborated within a framework of a specific institutional system. Essential, in this regard, is the major thesis of Becker’s (1974, 769) research, stating that “the artist thus works in the centre of a large network of cooperating people [and organisations], all of whose work is essential to the final outcome.” What components, however, constitute the specific institutional system? White and White (1965, 2) characterise it as “a persistent network of beliefs, customs, and formal procedures which together form a more-or-less articulated social organisation with an acknowledged central purpose – the creation and recognition of art” (White and White 1965, 2). This purpose hence is achieved through complex conventions, comprising recruitment, training, continuous indoctrination, a sequential process of appraisal and graded recognition, regularised appropriation of economic support from the environment, a graded system of discipline and punishment, acknowledged machinery for legitimation and adaptation of change, and controlled communication with the social environment (White and White 1965).
Field Networks will reveal the complex inter-workings of the involved social, economic, and political actors/powers and to visually investigate and reproduce the intricate morphological development of the Latvian contemporary visual arts field through network graphs, epitomising three distinct putative stages of progression from the 1990s to the 2010s.
Dace Demir (Latvia) is an interdisciplinary scholar, curator, and writer. She received her Ph.D. in Cultural Policy Studies from the University of Warwick (UK), M.A. in Arts Administration and Policy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (USA), and her B.A. in Intercultural and International Communication from Latvian Academy of Culture (Latvia). As the boundaries across different disciplines have increasingly become fluid, the emphasis on interdisciplinary work is integral to both her teaching and research. Dace Demir’s commitment to interdisciplinary scholarship is reflected in her current work as she teaches across three colleges at the University of Oklahoma – College of International Studies, College of Fine Arts, and College of Professional and Continuing Studies, respectively. Main areas of her research interests include comparative cultural policy and institutional development of contemporary visual arts as a distinct field of cultural production and distribution. Dace Demir is particularly interested in the influence that changing cultural policy trends exert on current developments in cultural infrastructure, particularly in the field of contemporary visual arts, exhibition processes, and curatorial practices. In terms of regional specialization, she focuses on transition economies of the former Soviet Union and Eastern bloc countries from a comparative perspective. Her most recent research explores the emergence, development and maturation of Latvian contemporary visual arts as a distinct institutional field during and after the post-Soviet transition of the 1990s. She examines the role that the various internal and external social and political environments and infrastructures play in the institutionalization patterns of a new art field. In the context of post-Soviet cultural transition of the 1990s, the term “emergence” represents a qualitative break from the relationships the actors of the new field shared with the past. She particularly focuses on the growing influence of the non-governmental sector and the changing behaviour of state actors in the formation of cultural policy trends in Latvia in the aftermath of the rapid disintegration of the Soviet Union. Application of social network analysis (SNA), an innovative, novel, and growing research strategy in cultural policy studies, is imperative to her research as it is essential in determining the visual characterisation of the structure of inter-actor relations and illustrating the complex political, economic, and social processes that are involved in the emergence, development, and maturation stages of a specific field of study.