When the dead rise: encountering resistant legacies of creative economy within an artist’s residency at a municipal cemetery

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Recent criticism of creative economies demonstrates tensions between programmes that support innovative cultural expression and community belonging, and those more oriented to instrumentally economic outcomes. While municipal planners recognize the link between cultural activity and enhanced quality of life, related budget support typically calls for quantifiable outcomes. Creative economy policies and projects are thus vulnerable to favouring more narrowly construed forms of economic growth. We explore the municipally embedded artist-in-residence (AiR) programme as a source of friction, complexity and inefficiency intentionally introduced into organizations constitutionally regulated to suppress exactly these kinds of excesses. In Deleuzian terms, the social machinery of neoliberal urban and economic development hesitates when it encounters the short-circuiting unpredictabilities of creative desire introduced by the embedded residency. The municipally embedded AiR is a residual apparatus of creative economy policy that can offer resistance to and even inoculation against easy alliances with neoliberal economic agendas. In the case of an embedded AiR in city cemeteries in Edmonton, Canada, the artist, working on the grounds, meeting visitors and holding workshops, uses now-obsolete photographic craft production to manipulate conventional memorial images and texts in unexpected conjunctions with experimental aesthetic expression and living stories. The physical presence of the residency also disrupts received categories to produce the cemetery as living public space rather than a setting with “holes to put the past in”. In this sense, the cemetery becomes accessible as newly encoded, sustainable cultural and recreational space with minimal civic investment. Calling up ghosts of challenged creative economy ideals, this AiR opens new forms of engagement between citizens, local history and urban nature as a complex adaptive system that incorporates both cultural values and commodity logic without primary emphasis on quantifiable outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-366
Number of pages14
JournalCultural Trends
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct. 2018


  • Artist residencies
  • aesthetics
  • assemblage
  • creative economy


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