Macquarie University
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Making art and community: an ethnographic study of being an emerging artist in Sydney

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posted on 2022-03-28, 10:50 authored by David Jonathan Scott
This is an ethnographic study of emerging artists as they develop their practice and become part of the artworld in Sydney, Australia. My fieldwork was conducted from 2014 to 2016, in three artist-run initiatives, where I volunteered and attended hundreds of exhibitions, artist talks and events in the emerging art community. Through this research, it became clear that being a contemporary artist is not merely a career but a way of being-in-the-world. This mode of existence is characterised by a state of heightened curiosity and perceptual environmental attunement, which is learnt at art schools, and refined and expanded in artistic practice. The artists' work is not so much an expression of their experience and interrogation of the world, as a continuation of it. The emerging contemporary artist is not only an artist when they are making art; they are never-not-an-artist. Artist-run initiatives (ARIs), as the hubs of emerging art practice, provide the platform for contemporary art to develop and evolve. These are places run by artists, showing art for artists.They form the bridge between the art school and the artworld. At the same time, ARIs are indispensable places in which artists of all levels of experience form bonds of solidarity and continually expand their view of contemporary art in its many guises. The ARI, therefore creates the structures for artistic and rhetorical discourse and the continuity of emerging art culture and community. This thesis demonstrates the inextricability and interdependence of artists, art practice and community in the emerging artworld in Sydney. These are not merely co-influencers of emerging art in Sydney, they are co-constituents: they inform, shape and produce the art that is made and shown as they celebrate and reaffirm a way of being-in-the-world.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Chapter 1. Sydney and its artworld -- Chapter 2. The artworld runs on community -- Chapter 3. Volunteering and the daily life of an ARI -- Chapter 4. Placing art and community -- Chapter 5. Mind the gap : encountering contemporary art -- Chapter 6. Making sense and the sensibility of making -- Chapter 7. The problem attitude -- Chapter 8. Towards an ontology of emerging contemporary artists in Sydney -- Chapter 9. Gathering -- Chapter 10. Forming and materialisation -- Chapter 11. The ritual of the exhibition -- Conclusion : making art and community -- References -- Artists and galleries -- Ethics approval letter.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 182-190

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Anthropology

Department, Centre or School

Department of Anthropology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Deborah Van Heekeren


Copyright David Jonathan Scott 2018. Copyright disclaimer:




New South Wales


1 online resource (viii, 192 pages) colour illustrations

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