Blanca Jove

Blanca Jove Alcalde


Creating a politically active, plural and critical public sphere: discursive programmes at contemporary art institutions

Thesis Description:

Drawing on the concept of a non-state public sphere established by Paolo Virno, this research seeks to develop a framework for encouraging the conditions for socio-political public programmes. More specifically, it focuses on current discursive practices within the art institution in order to reconsider and reassess them as a way to create spaces for socio-political discussions, participation and allocation of agency.

Accordingly, this project uses Virno to examine the potential that already established art institutions might have for developing this alternative public sphere. More importantly, it is concerned with the possibility of creating stable and lasting programmes in which publics identify themselves as participants, and are actively involved in their creation: planning, delivering and evaluating.

Based on these theoretical concepts, this project examines practices which use both language and discourse as a form of public engagement. For example, the programme developed by Jorge Ribalta, former curator at the MACBA, whose goal he described as:

‘To counteract hegemonic discourses and forces, which tend to mythicize the local/national, and bring cultural institutions into play as active agents in the transformation of urban economies into tertiary economies. In addition, the MACBA works to develop alternatives to the dominant and inadequate models of the museum’ (Ribalta, 2003)

In this regard, the aim of this research is to understand the logics and developments of these specific public programmes in order to merge Virno’s theoretical insights with current practices. Accordingly, by studying this in different institutions (Primary and Nottingham Contemporary), this project is particularly interested in examining the extent to which these proceedings vary depending on the nature of the institution as well as the people working in them.

Finally, by looking at various public programmes, it aims to study the possibility of creating spaces for shared representation, socio-political involvement and public interaction through the language by reassessing the position and status that institution-curator-artist-public holds. This latter aspect will be studied through the lens of Rancière and his concept of dissensus (Ranciere, 2010).

In conclusion, this project will critically examine present practices concerned with the constitution of empowered platforms which are both based on political awareness and public agency.



Dr Isobel Whitelegg – University of Leicester

Dr Amanda Earley – University of Leicester

Prof Pat Thomson – University of Nottingham


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