The Theme of Displacement in Contemporary Art


This essay discusses images and ideas of displacement in recent works of art. The theme of displacement is considered in the context of the globalist aspect of contemporary art, itself a reflection of globalisation. The intensified movement of goods, information, capital, images – and people – around the world provides the setting for contemporary artists’ treatment of displacement in a wide range of contexts.

Theorising Global Art

2Contemporary art has increasingly been conceived as global art. Art theorists and art historians searching for a successor term to modernism and postmodernism have proposed, among other terms, network culture and globalism, as cultural conditions reflected by contemporary art. The critic and theorist Rex Butler has suggested that the “new style or movement of art that comes after postmodernism” should be called globalism (Butler 58), incorporating both the impact of globalisation on the concerns and content of contemporary art, and the international circuit of major art events at which the most recent artworks are showcased. 

3The art theorist and curator Nicolas Bourriaud proposes as the successor to postmodernism an “altermodernity” comprising a “translation-oriented modernity” (Bourriaud 2007: 43). For Bourriaud such a conception of contemporary culture corresponds to the globalised world order, a modernity “born of global and decentralized negotiations, of multiple discussions among participants from different cultures” (43). Such a culture must be “polyglot”, because “the immigrant, the exile, the tourist, and the urban wanderer are the dominant figures of contemporary culture.” (51) Altermodernity for Bourriaud embraces the styles and techniques of modernity as “one phenomenon among others”, to be explored in a “globalised culture busy with new syntheses.” (186) The global network becomes a space of exchange, of diverse representations of the world, in which translation of ideas and representations places a crucial role in “discussions that will give rise to a new common intelligibility.” (188)

4Bourriaud cites as exemplary artists in this regard Gabriel Orozco, Thomas Hirschhorn, Jason Rhoades and Francis Alÿs, all of whom express the wandering aspect of modern urban life first defined in Baudelaire’s figure of the flâneur. This artist-figure becomes “one flesh” with “the multitude, among the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite”; such an artist is “a kaleidoscope gifted with consciousness” (Baudelaire 6-12, cited in Bourriaud 2007: 92). The nomadic function celebrated by Baudelaire is intensified in the global age, as artists wander not just through cities but across continents.

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The regenerative approach to model an integrated urban-building evaluation method


In this paper we focus on crucial issues concerning the effectiveness of evaluation of sustainability in the built environment. The paper argues that we need to rethink the evaluation of urban-building sustainability from an integrative perspective. It advances a theoretical and methodological model based on the regenerative approach, which opens up a new way to deal with the sustainability of the built environment. An enlarged definition of urban metabolism is used to carry out the integrated evaluation.

Central in it is the concept of reliability, which expresses the ability of products and processes in the built environment to be adaptive, resilient and regenerative. We use reliability in a transversal manner through the process of making the built environment sustainable, referring it both to buildings and the regenerative process triggered by sustainable actions addressed to buildings. Holistic indicators allow assessing it quantitatively or qualitatively.

Through reliability we bring regenerative thinking from a theoretical to an operational level. When referred to buildings, reliability allows considering sustainable performances not usually assessed in current evaluations. When referred to processes, it helps to understand directions of change in relation to sustainability of the built environment. Our method can be easily associated to current evaluation systems exceeding their boundaries.

1. Introduction

During last centuries, the increase in knowledge and the associated technological advancements have determined an evolution of human societies superimposed on nature, with the results of jeopardizing natural systems. Becoming aware of natural resource depletion and environmental pollution is at the basis of the need to draw attention to a sustainable development, as defined in the Bruntland Report (WCED, 1987). This is considered a starting point of a major concern for the natural environment, which has to be interrelated with social and economic development, inter and intra generationally. Then, in recent years, the sustainability paradigm has been the leading guide for development at any scale of thought and action, pervading policies as well as practices of intervention in any field of application (Hecht et al., 2012).

The built environment is the most significant field of action for several reasons, both quantitative and qualitative: it uses natural resources and impacts the natural environment in a very relevant manner; it constitutes the socio-cultural identity of a place; it expresses the economic capacity of a society. Therefore the built environment has increasingly become the test bed of policies and practices of sustainability, the terrain for experimenting sustainable paths of governance and design so that buildings and cities have been focused subjects of interest and experimentation (Lewis et al., 2013) and sustainable buildings and cities the output of such commitment.

Now, after more than 25 years of investments in sustainability, the question is whether sustainable development is indeed sustainable (Blowers et al., 2012). The answer is arguable: it could be almost positive, if we refer to sustainability as the paradigm originating from the sustainable development definition above cited; it could be rather negative if we refer to sustainability as the ability to re-establish cooperation between the natural and the human worlds for a mutual beneficial development. The central difference resides in the approach used, which at the end defines a substantially different goal: in the first case, the sustainable development approach is aimed at reducing the natural resource depletion and the environmental impacts; in the second case, the approach is regenerative, i.e. aimed at reversing the present and persistent trend of consumption for regenerating the natural environment, indispensable for the human life (Cole, 2012a).

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Crickets Are Not a Free Lunch: Protein Capture from Scalable Organic Side-Streams via High-Density Populations of Acheta domesticus


It has been suggested that the ecological impact of crickets as a source of dietary protein is less than conventional forms of livestock due to their comparatively efficient feed conversion and ability to consume organic side-streams. This study measured the biomass output and feed conversion ratios of house crickets (Acheta domesticus) reared on diets that varied in quality, ranging from grain-based to highly cellulosic diets. The measurements were made at a much greater population scale and density than any previously reported in the scientific literature. The biomass accumulation was strongly influenced by the quality of the diet (p<0.001), with the nitrogen (N) content, the ratio of N to acid detergent fiber (ADF) content, and the crude fat (CF) content (y=N/ADF+CF) explaining most of the variability between feed treatments (p = 0.02; R2 = 0.96). In addition, for populations of crickets that were able to survive to a harvestable size, the feed conversion ratios measured were higher (less efficient) than those reported from studies conducted at smaller scales and lower population densities. Compared to the industrial-scale production of chickens, crickets fed a poultry feed diet showed little improvement in protein conversion efficiency, a key metric in determining the ecological footprint of grain-based livestock protein. Crickets fed the solid filtrate from food waste processed at an industrial scale via enzymatic digestion were able to reach a harvestable size and achieve feed and protein efficiencies similar to that of chickens. However, crickets fed minimally-processed, municipal-scale food waste and diets composed largely of straw experienced >99% mortality without reaching a harvestable size. Therefore, the potential for Adomesticus to sustainably supplement the global protein supply, beyond what is currently produced via grain-fed chickens, will depend on capturing regionally scalable organic side-streams of relatively high-quality that are not currently being used for livestock production.

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Framing Bias: Media in the Distribution of Power

Robert M. Entman

School of Media and Public Affairs, The George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052

This article proposes integrating the insights generated by framing, priming, and agenda-setting research through a systematic effort to conceptualize and understand their larger implications for political power and democracy. The organizing concept is bias, that curiously undertheorized staple of public discourse about the media. After showing how agenda setting, framing and priming fit together as tools of power, the article connects them to explicit definitions of news slant and the related but distinct phenomenon of bias. The article suggests improved measures of slant and bias. Properly defined and measured, slant and bias provide insight into how the media influence the distribution of power: who gets what, when, and how. Content analysis should be informed by explicit theory linking patterns of framing in the media text to predictable priming and agenda-setting effects on audiences. When unmoored by such underlying theory, measures and conclusions of media bias are suspect.


This article proposes integrating the insights generated by framing, priming, and agenda-setting research through a new, systematic effort to conceptualize and under- stand their implications for political power. The organizing concept is bias, that curiously undertheorized staple of public discourse about the media.

With all the heat and attention it incites among activists and ordinary citizens, bias is yet to be defined clearly, let alone received much serious empirical attention (Niven, 2002). The term seems to take on three major meanings. Sometimes, it is applied to news that purportedly distorts or falsifies reality (distortion bias), some- times to news that favors one side rather than providing equivalent treatment to both sides in a political conflict (content bias), and sometimes to the motivations and mindsets of journalists who allegedly produce the biased content (decision-making bias). This essay argues that we can make bias a robust, rigorous, theory-driven, and productive research concept by abandoning the first use while deploying new, more precisely delineated variants of the second and third.

Depending on specific research objectives, the distinctions among these three con- cepts can be crucial (Scheufele, 2000). The present article suggests that parsimonious

Corresponding author: Robert M. Entman; e-mail:

Journal of Communication 57 (2007) 163–173 a 2007 International Communication Association 163

Journal of Communication ISSN 0021-9916


Framing Bias R. M. Entman

integration can nonetheless serve at least two goals. First, systematically employing agenda setting, framing, and priming under the conceptual umbrella of bias would advance understanding of the media’s role in distributing power, revealing new dimensions and processes of critically political communication.1 Second, such a pro- ject would offer normative guidance for scholars, for journalists striving to construct more ‘‘fair and balanced’’ news, and for the many citizens and activists who feel victimized by biased media (cf. Eveland & Shah, 2003).

Most of the studies that do explicitly explore bias focus on presidential cam- paigns and administrations and find little evidence of decisive or consistent, liberal or conservative, Democratic or Republican bias (D’Alessio & Allen, 2000; Niven, 2002; but cf. Jamieson & Waldman, 2002; Kuypers, 2002). Yet this conclusion sits uneasily alongside findings, not usually filed under ‘‘bias’’ scholarship, that reveal news consistently favoring one side. Examples of such apparent content bias include the media’s images of minorities (Entman & Rojecki, 2000; Kang, 2005) and their coverage of U.S. foreign policy (Entman, 2004). The consolidating question, then, is whether the agenda setting and framing content of texts and their priming effects on audiences fall into persistent, politically relevant patterns. Powerful players devote massive resources to advancing their interests precisely by imposing such patterns on mediated communications. To the extent we reveal and explain them, we illuminate the classic questions of politics: who gets what, when, and how (Lasswell, 1966)?

Reconsidering connections

Scholars can shed new light on bias by examining linkages among the three concepts that have received such intense scholarly scrutiny. We can define framing as the process of culling a few elements of perceived reality and assembling a narrative that highlights connections among them to promote a particular interpretation. Fully developed frames typically perform four functions: problem definition, causal anal- ysis, moral judgment, and remedy promotion (Entman, 1993, 2004). Framing works to shape and alter audience members’ interpretations and preferences through prim- ing. That is, frames introduce or raise the salience or apparent importance of certain ideas, activating schemas that encourage target audiences to think, feel, and decide in a particular way (see, e.g., Gross & D’Ambrosio, 2004; Iyengar & Simon, 1993; Kim, Scheufele, & Shanahan, 2002; Price, Tewksbury, & Powers, 1997).

The strategic framing contests that occupy the heart of the political process take place in the first instance over the agenda (Riker, 1986). Agenda setting can thus be seen as another name for successfully performing the first function of framing: defining problems worthy of public and government attention. Among other things, agenda problems can spotlight societal conditions, world events, or character traits of a candidate. The second or ‘‘attribute’’ level of agenda setting (McCombs & Ghanem, 2001) centrally involves three types of claims that happen to encompass the core business of strategic framing: to highlight the causes of problems, to encour- age moral judgments (and associated affective responses), and to promote favored

164 Journal of Communication 57 (2007) 163–173 a 2007 International Communication Association

R. M. Entman Framing Bias

policies. Priming, then, is a name for the goal, the intended effect, of strategic actors’ framing activities.2

The oft-quoted but misleading phrase that inaugurated the modern study of media effects is that: ‘‘the media may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about’’ (Cohen, 1963, p. 13, emphasis in original). Although the distinction between ‘‘what to think’’ and ‘‘what to think about’’ is not entirely clear, the former seems to mean what people decide, favor, or accept, whereas the latter refers to the consid- erations they ‘‘think about’’ in coming to such conclusions. The distinction misleads because, short of physical coercion, all influence over ‘‘what people think’’ derives from telling them ‘‘what to think about.’’ If the media really are stunningly successful in telling people what to think about, they must also exert significant influence over what they think. 

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Beyond the Head: The Practical Work of Curating Contemporary Art

Sophia Krzys Acord 

Abstract In contemporary art, the curator plays an important role in the production of artistic meaning through exhibition-making. Although sociology has tended to see this work as the exercise of tacit or embodied knowledge, curatorial knowledge and plans may be elaborated and altered by the situated actions of exhibition installation. While curators know a successful installation “when they see it,” this depends on the indexical particularities of artworks and environments which cannot be predicted in advance. In demonstrating the practical ways in which culture is mobilized in situations of object (inter) action, this paper emphasizes the “making” in artistic meaning-making.

Keywords Culturalsociology.Distributedcognition.Actor-networktheory. Object-interaction


Speaking at the outset of the 21st century, art critic David Sylvester suggested that the most important people in the cultural world are not artists but curators, “the true brokers of the art world” (Millard 2001, p. 118). Curators have risen to prominence in the contemporary art world because of the increased importance of mediating between institutional bureaucracy, market forces, artistic representation, and public taste. In particular, the crux of curatorial practice in contemporary art is the construction of artistic meaning through the exhibition. As Greenberg et al. (1996, p. 2) describe, “Part spectacle, part socio-historical event, part structuring device, exhibitions—especially exhibitions of contemporary art—establish and administer the cultural meanings of art.” Yet, little is known about how curators go about creating these meanings in the physical process of exhibition installation.

S. K. Acord (*)
Center for Studies in Higher Education, University of California, Berkeley, 771 Evans Hall #4650, Berkeley, CA 94720-4650, USA


448 Qual Sociol (2010) 33:447–467


As a form of artistic mediation, curatorial work is traditionally seen by sociology as tacitly structured by “conventions,” “internalized dialogues,” and artistic “codes.” Particularly in contemporary art, this expertise is developed through a curator’s widespread familiarity with the international art world (Moulin and Quemin 1993; Octobre 1999). A curator’s knowledge about how to present contemporary artworks to the public is generally assumed to be part and parcel of their knowledge of the artwork (Tobelem 2005). This reduction of curatorial work to the exercise of tacit knowledge, however, overlooks the role played by artistic objects in their own mediation, and in doing so, fails to provide a documented, explanatory model of how culture enters into action. If something goes without saying because it came without saying, how, when, and where can it finally be said?

In order to look in depth at the practical and material dimensions of curatorial meaning- making in action, this article draws on comparative video-based, microethnographic studies of the exhibition-making process at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts and ARC/ Musée d’Art Moderne de la ville de Paris, supplemented by visual interviews with 34 other elite curators of contemporary art. This paper also draws on useful theoretical concepts in human-object interaction, distributed cognition, the sociology of affordances, actor-network theory, and learning to illuminate the extra-verbal dimensions of curatorial work. In particular, by examining how curators build successful installations through their physical orientations to artworks, this study demonstrates the reflexive and process-oriented ways in which tacit knowledge, aesthetic codes, and meaningful conventions are born, communi- cated, and mobilized in situations of (inter)action. In doing so, it argues for a more dynamic understanding of curatorial mediation, and the central import of object-oriented qualitative research to the sociological study of culture and action.

Dawn of the curator of contemporary art

The curatorial profession became standardized in the nineteenth century, hand in hand with the advent of the modern museum. As Bourdieu (1993 [1987], p. 204) explains, among an array of “specialized agents” (e.g., curators, critics, art historians, dealers, collectors) who shaped the economy of cultural goods, curators became crucial actors “capable of imposing a specific measure of the value of the artist and his products.” The combining of artworks by different artists to give selective readings on art and on the history of art is one of the fundamental principles that has underwritten curatorial practice since the mid-19th century. As traditional art curators overwhelmingly hold advanced degrees in art history, they generally mount exhibitions that are scholarly in nature (Alexander 1996; DiMaggio 1991; Zolberg 1981). This scholarly nature is reflected in the art historical nature of museum display, where exhibitions generally display artworks in a linear fashion within an overall historical perspective.

The 1960s and 1970s, however, witnessed the emergence of a new breed of curators in the burgeoning contemporary art world, including Harald Szeemann, Pontus Hulten, Lars Nittv, and others. Rather than base their approach to exhibition-making in art historical conventions, these curators engaged in critical curatorial practice, experimenting with the very nature of the exhibition format. In other words, the avant-garde movement among artists was met by an avant-garde movement in curating. This new breed of curator, akin to a stage producer or orchestra conductor, became sought out by institutions, often those dedicated to contemporary art but others as well, for their wide personal networks, effective


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social abilities, expertise on a particular subject, and powerful visions, rather than an advanced degree in art history.

Key here to the new museum curator’s role is the planning of temporary “ahistorical” exhibitions (Meijers 1996), often arranged thematically or contextually (Staniszewski 1998), in which the curator plays a role not unlike “author” of the exhibition (Heinich and Pollak 1989a). The exhibition is a way to validate the originality of the curator’s point of view, his or her aptitude for discovering new talents, and the artworks themselves by exhibiting them in a dialogue with each other to an initiated public (Octobre 1999). In contrast to the taxonomical or art historical approach to exhibiting traditional art, the exhibition process in modern and contemporary art is integral to the meaning of the art work (cf. Caillet et al. 2002; Ducret et al. 1990).

Significantly, the exhibition of contemporary art communicates the object by contributing another layer of meaning or interpretation to the artist’s original intention (Davallon 1999), which may be hazy to begin with. Practicing artists and performers have long recognized that artistic creation is an experimental and emergent process, involving input from traditions and intentionality as well as physical objects and spaces (Elkins 1999; Becker et al. 2006; Jarvis 2007). In contrast, as I will now examine in the following literature review, sociology has tended to see artistic mediation as distinct from the creative process, based on theories and guidelines rather than situated knowledge production.

Literature review

In their review of work in the sociological study of culture, Wuthnow and Witten (1988) describe two distinct views of culture as an “explicit” social construction and an “implicit” feature of social life. While the sociology of the arts continues to be driven in the main by the “explicit” conceptualization of culture as a recorded product or symbolic good, the specific study of the mediating activities surrounding explicit cultural forms is a window onto broader sociological conceptions of implicit culture (Acord and DeNora 2008). As demonstrated in this brief literature review, the study of knowledge production by mediators in art worlds (i.e., what informs curators’ decision-making) sheds light on how culture operates in general (i.e., to inform general patterns of individual and social meaning-making).

In the dominant “production of culture” approach in the sociology of the arts (cf. Peterson and Anand 2004), meaning-making is seen to be an outcome of institutional structure or the values held by particular actors. The artistic value of an artwork resides not in its material properties, but in the individuals, institutions, and processes that mediate between artist and spectator (cf. Crane 1987; Heinich 1998; Moulin 1967, 1992; White and White 1965; Wolff 1981). These different groups have a highly interrelated existence; for example, museums buy what galleries promote, and critics justify their value.

As Bourdieu (1985, p. 728) describes, the position of a mediator in this social space— what he terms the “field of cultural production”—plays an important, structuring role by suggesting the cognitive “‘filling-in’ strategies” by which he or she makes meaning. Using the example of a manuscript submission to a publisher, Bourdieu (1993 [1976], p. 134–135) observes how the publisher explains his choice to accept the manuscript with an absolute kind of “flair,” what Bourdieu describes as the “ultimate and often indefinable principle” behind his choice. This indefinable principle is explained by the fact that both parties have


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what Lamont (2009) terms a “shared sense of craftsmanship,” which led the author to prepare his text based on what he perceived the publisher would want to read. In his “Outline of a Sociological Theory of Art Perception,” Bourdieu explains how such tacit “codes” play a central role in artistic knowledge:

An act of deciphering unrecognized as such, immediate and adequate “comprehen- sion,” is possible and effective only in the special case in which the cultural code which makes the act of deciphering possible is immediately and completely mastered by the observer (in the form of cultivated ability or inclination) and merges with the cultural code which has rendered the work perceived possible. (Bourdieu 1993 [1968], p. 215)

Artistic meaning-making, then, is the reference to and propagation of cultural codes, as linked to the mediator’s position (and strategic position-takings) in the cultural field. It is exercised through the mediator’s habitus, the set of “objective” dispositions he has by virtue of his place in the social order (Bourdieu 1979). As Bourdieu (1972, p. 79) notes, “It is because subjects do not, strictly speaking, know what they are doing that what they do has more meaning than they know.” The power of the habitus as a reproducer of cultural codes (in the explicit cultural sense of the codes by which one encounters art) comes from its tacit mastery (implicitly acting through the habitus). 

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