Art and Agency in the Era of De-Structuration: Exploring a New Field
Human agency, implying, from sociology’s perspective, proactive or even transformative individual behaviour upon the social world (or “social structures” as sociologists call them), remains one of the central concepts and problems for both social science and practice. Current stage of societal evolution, de-structuration, makes individual agency especially important for both individual and collective well-being. In this context, the contribution of contemporary art (2018–2022) to agency issues remains little known in the academic world. The objective of this paper is to examine how contemporary art representatives (artists, curators, and experts) express the issue of agency through their artworks, and to compare this viewpoint with the interpretations from other areas of public life. The focus is on those aspects, ideas, and meanings related to agency that are accessible to a broad audience and can be applied to phenomena outside the realm of art but remain overlooked or underdeveloped in current academic discussions on agency. The authors analyse initiatives in both institutional and non-institutional art on a global scale, and explore their manifestations and impact in comprehending and advancing agency. Finally, this article proposes a typology of agency manifestations in contemporary art: (1) straightforward (strong, radical, protest) agency; (2) escapism; (3) panic agency; (4) subject-object carnivalism.