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Interpretive Innovation in the Performing Arts: The Role of Organizations

Paola Trevisan (2021)

In: Paolo Demartini, Lucia Marchegiani, Michela Marchiori & Giovanni Schiuma (eds.), Cultural Initiatives for Sustainable Development. Management, Participation and Entrepreneurship in the Cultural and Creative Sector. Cham: Springer, pp. 121-141.

Abstract. This chapter provides an original analysis of innovation in the performing arts, giving centrality to the practices that lead to original interpretations of the works of art that are organized and performed every day by performing arts organizations. In particular, the study examines interpretive innovation as emerging from evaluative practices in which multiple principles and performance criteria concur in the definition of value. Stark’s notions of heterarchy, lateral accountability, and creative friction are applied to analyze the development of an original interpretation in an Italian opera house. The analysis demonstrated how innovation emerges from the interplay of multiple performance criteria. These criteria are based not only on the different technical and discipline-specific requirements involved in the production of live performances (industrial principles) but also on a number of individual sensitivities (the inspiration principle). The analysis also demonstrated that a meaningful organization of diversity generates frictions that are productive of novel and unexpected interpretations. The chapter contributes to our understanding of innovation in the performing arts by highlighting the role of performing arts organizations in setting up complex evaluative processes that lead to a re-generation of cultural heritage and sustain its transmission.

Extract: “Stark, drawing mainly from John Dewey’s theory of valuation (1939) and Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot’s economies of worth (2006), states that the interplay of diverse valuation principles generates perplexing and troubling situations that prompt search and innovation. Valuation principles, according to Boltanski and Thévenot (2006), are organizing mechanisms that allow individuals to assess and distribute value in real situations around a notion of the common good.” (p. 125)

Link to the chapter