Jen HarvieFair Play: Art, Performance and Neoliberalism

Palgrave, 2013

by Dave O'Brien on February 9, 2015

Jen Harvie

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[Cross-posted from New Books in Critical Theory] Arts and culture are under threat in the age of austerity. This threat is underpinned by the misuse of the idea of participation in contemporary performance. This is one of the central arguments of Fair Play: Art, Performance and Neoliberalism (Palgrave, 2013) by Professor Jen Harvie. The book considers how arts and culture are changing in the era of neoliberalism, seeking to pinpoint the way that ideologies of individualisation, participation and creativity have, at best, ambivalent effects. The book sets out its argument by exploring the rise of working practices such as delegating and prosumption. The rise of the precarious labourer is linked with the rise of audience and spectator participation. Whilst this can have positive impacts, it is also part of shifting the basis for aesthetic work to the participant. A similar process occurs with the demand that the cultural practitioner become entrepreneurial- whilst this might make the practitioner more attentive to her audience it may also create an individualised, market driven cultural practice. These issues play out in place and space too, as the narrative of the creative city is contrasted with the forms of exclusion associated with contemporary issues of housing in the city. The book concludes by asking a fundamental question, as to how best to fund the arts, discussing the rise and risks of philanthropy and market modes of support. The book uses a host of examples, from contemporary art, theatre pop ups and cultural institutions. It will be vital reading for anyone interested in the state of culture today.

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