Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Artwork as Practical Social Action: An Ethnomethodological Study and the New Sociology of Art.

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posted on 2021-06-28, 21:45 authored by Maximilon Baddeley

Few studies in the sociology of art observe artists in their work. Of the few, little investigate the phenomenon of social order, and when they do, they research artists at a distance. Hence, there is room to contribute studies and descriptions of the observable actions artists conduct when they find themselves in the midst of doing their work; that work is argued here as a sociological accomplishment, topic of interest, and evidence of the actual and not imagined practical management of social reality. An emergent literature, the new Sociology of Art, has started to pay close attention toward observing artists’ situated and sequential actions as they occur naturally and in real time. Yet neglected in these often overly conceptual studies are detailed descriptions of artists finding ad hoc solutions to their practical workplace problems. In my motivation to observe artists in their work, I ask how artworks are organised in and as practical social action. With video camera in hand and in aid by the sociological attitudes of ethnomethodology and its research praxis, I aim to explicate social phenomena of order, specifically observable within sites consisting of a street corner, an artist’s studio, an urban café, and river terrain. This thesis presents data first collected and then taken from the large video data corpus to form four single-cases. I recognise in this thesis the effort evident within ethnomethodology’s recent scholarship to acknowledge Aron Gurwitsch’s gestalt concept functional significance as partially influencing Harold Garfinkel’s study of endogenous order. I saw functional significance as an opportunity to explore, rather experimentally, how one artistic action relates to another, and how that interdependence was locally managed by the artists themselves during their artistic processes. This thesis contributes written descriptions of artistic action as social action, findings from which the new Sociology of Art may benefit.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

CC BY-SA 4.0

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Social and Cultural Studies


Lloyd, Mike; Caudwell, Catherine