Culture Incorporated: Museums, Artists, and Corporate Sponsorships

By Mark W. Rectanus | Go to book overview

7. Cybersponsoring

Cultural sponsorships assume a pivotal role in linking notions of corporate innovation with artistic creativity. At the same time, they provide legitimacy for new product technologies within cultural institutions and at events. As a function of corporate cultural politics, we have seen that technology is embedded in sponsorships relating to (1) product promotion and consumption (e.g., BMW's “Art Cars”), (2) the organization and representation of social milieus and identities (e.g., product technologies at Ravestock), (3) the aesthetic mediation of events (e.g., visualization technologies used by the Bregenz Festival), (4) the representation of product histories as a filter for remembering and interpreting the past (e.g., BMW's Isetta exhibition), and (5) images of mobility, tourism, and space.

Although the dissemination of products or technologies constitutes a central objective of many sponsorships, it is not surprising that much of the growth in sponsoring has been in service-related industries (banking, insurance, and communications), for culture offers the potential for mediating immaterial goods. Thus, image transfer remains a primary objective for product sponsorships as well as for those that address the representation of corporate images and services within social contexts. Although product and image may be signified distinctly in various contexts, it is their fusion—both in promotion and in constructing spaces of contemporary culture and identity—that has become characteristic of postmodern culture (Wernick 1991, 181–82).

This fusion is epitomized by digital media. Facilitated by sophisticated hardware products, electronic technologies are creating new multidimensional, virtual spaces and communities, reconfiguring communication and how we conceptualize everyday life.1 The expansion of these spaces also facilitates the further globalization of corporate cultural politics and transnational corporations in a cyberspace, which knows no geographical boundaries. Indeed, there seem to be few areas of social interaction untouched by electronic technologies or their effects. Obviously, cyberspace offers considerable potential for new forms of corporate colonization. However, I have also argued that the shifting contours of social interaction present opportunities for interventions that are not defined by corporate interests as well as apertures to interrogate and externalize such interests. In this regard, cyberspace is certainly no exception. It is

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