Culture Incorporated: Museums, Artists, and Corporate Sponsorships

By Mark W. Rectanus | Go to book overview

3. Redefining Culture,
Absolutly

The rapid growth of sponsoring during the 1980s and 1990s was facilitated by an increasing awareness of new definitions and uses of culture within the contexts of everyday life. This process of redefining culture was in part driven by corporations themselves and mediated through advertising and promotion. Reconfigurations of everyday culture and cultural identities (e.g., gender, ethnicity, or nationality) were shaped by and circulated within media that produced, packaged, organized, and disseminated culture for expanding global markets (e.g., cable and satellite television). This chapter examines the articulation of corporate cultural politics within networks of cultural production, representation, and dissemination. I will argue that these politics increasingly fuse cultural representation with social agendas, not only to ensure and validate legitimacy but also in order to insert corporate interests within local and global contexts.

The cultural politics of the corporation, as mediated through cultural, social, or ecological sponsorships, are more than just highly sophisticated corporate communications via advertising and public relations. The corporation's sociopolitical interests (e.g., in developing urban and regional spaces) cannot be adequately captured strictly in terms of the expansion and colonizing tendencies of advertising and public relations.1 Rather than an end, advertising is a means to constructing social relations and spaces that are based on consumption. More importantly, I have argued, corporate cultural politics and the strategies of sponsoring (which are coordinated with but not synonymous with advertising and promotion) are a response to dynamic social forces challenging corporate politics both internally and externally. Sponsored culture, to be effective, must operate on the boundaries between those spaces it dominates and new spaces that are undefined or have yet to be defined in terms of resistance.

Yet corporate attempts to appropriate these spaces result in paradoxes and ruptures that potentially expose and destabilize these interests. Such dissonances range from the microlevel of internal labor relations (e.g., employee rejection of corporate art) to the macrolevel of political “damage control” in the public-policy sphere (e.g., the Brent Spar affair in Germany)2 or with regard to legislation to limit cigarette and alcohol advertising in the United States. Other reactions are tentative, sporadic responses by

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