Dina Aboul Fotouh Mohamed: The Organic Artist: On the Integration of Art and Society


Advisor/tutor: Ghalya Saadawi

Arnhem, August 2019


This thesis is an attempt to constitute a base for a philosophical argument around the meaning and function of art and the definition of the artist in regard to her role and relation to society. Stemming from Antonio Gramsci’s notion of the “Organic Intellectual” and his critique of intellectualism as a field of specialization, this thesis is a proposition towards the formation of an “Organic Artist” as a driving force for social change. Such a proposition can only be perceived under a conceptualization of art as an intellectual faculty rather than a profession. In order to structure this argument, the thesis maps the recent histories of thought and debates around the role of the artist in society from modernist ideas of art autonomy, to its manifestation in contemporary art. The focus is to question the position of the artist in relation to socio-political roles and the structures of labor under the contemporary art institute and its relations to the neo-liberal economies. The purpose here is to examine first, if the self-referentiality of art as an end value, and the special position of the artists in the valuation of labor are the results of art autonomy; and second if art autonomy paradoxically the gateway for exploitation, commodification and instrumentalization of art in political propagandas and art-washing. This thesis is to argue that erasing the frontiers between culture or aesthetic practices and social practices cannot be done only by negating autonomy. The method to do so is rooted in an understanding of art that clarifies the conflation between art as a profession or specialization and art as an intellectual quality. D.M.