Since 2015, the Space, Creativity and Organizing workshop brings together researchers interested in ways of developing an understanding of space more adequate to the challenge of contemporary organization. It proposes hands-on and experimental activities in the margins of the European Group for Organizational Studies’ annual colloquium to provoke and engage academics to consider alternative methods in which to think and practice space in organization. In 2015, we occupied the cooperative workspace of the Stone Soup organization in Athens to explore the of site-specific creative possibilities of spaces normally used by independent technology professionals. In 2016, we took over an art gallery, the ‘Voyage Pittoresque Factory’ in Naples, to investigate affect’s emergence in the interaction of bodies, technologies and space. In 2017, we take a literary turn, with an event at the Overgaden Institute for Contemporary Art in Copenhagen.
Over the years our work seeks to extend and explore the idea that space is relationally constituted (Massey, 2003; Thrift, 1999). As we interact, speak to each other, and conduct our daily activities, we are also weaving together the very spaces that we inhabit. The relational turn marked out by Massey and Thrift is paralleled in organization studies, where research has begun to draw attention to the fact that organizations must be conceived as phenomena constituted through (spatial) practices (Knox, O’Doherty, Vurdubakis, & Westrup, 2008; Kornberger & Clegg, 2004; Vásquez, 2016). At the same time, the more space becomes extended and complicated by organization the more it becomes inhabited by non-space (Auge, 1995). We are specifically interested in the challenge posed to organization as the boundary between space and ‘non-space’ gets blurred. What are the non-spaces with which organization today grapples? How can we best study these non-spaces and explore the relational qualities of space in organization?
Literature on space has warned against the concept’s reduction to its ‘discursive’ construction (Massey, 1999). Efforts have since been made to get space out of talk and writing, and study its material relationality. What if, though, rather than opposing the apparent reality of materiality to the fiction of words, we engaged differently, and more fully, with the reality of fiction? Themes of mobility, movement, or on the contrary entrapment, are legion in the world literature and often explicitly tied to the experiences of work and what we might call organizational life. Victor Hugo, in an 1856 poem, took the point of view of a bystander asking “Where are those children going?” to denounce child labour, and equated the narrator’s interrogation over the movement of children going to the factory with similar interrogation over the movement of industrial progress. Amélie Nothomb’s harsh look at a Belgian expatriate’s work at a Japanese firm, in Fear and Trembling, parallels the building’s verticality and her elevator trips with the woman’s steep social and professional descent. Bulgakov’s A Young Doctor’s Notebook ties together the arduous life and work of the narrator with his travel into the harsh and unforgiving Russian land.
In an effort to open a line of flight away from the disciplinary boundaries of organization studies and to venture into the territory of literature and the arts, the 3rd Space, Creativity and Organising workshop interrogates the treatment of space, work and organizations in works of fiction. This year’s workshop will be focused on the work of Chilean author Roberto Bolaño, in particular his posthumous magnum opus 2666. Widely regarded as the first novel of the 21st century, 2666 offers what it calls (citing Baudelaire) ‘an oasis of horror in a desert of boredom’. That oasis of horror might be organization, specifically contemporary organization; or it might be the failure of organization. The text of 2666 remains episodic and fragmented such that it seems to be held together by a strange consciousness - one of dissociation, seemingly shared by both author and key protagonists in the novel. On the other hand, it might be that the novel allows us to explore and experience the possibility that modern organization is constitutively horror. We should then ask whether organization, and our very capacity to talk of it, is only possible because of our own unacknowledged consciousness of dissociation. 2666 is thus taken as an example of how fiction can help in thinking (dis)organization and (non-)space.
We invite everyone with an interest in space, organizing, and fiction to join us for this ‘off-EGOS’ gathering which will start off with a talk by Danish artist Peter Voss Knude, whose artistic collaboration with the Danish Armed Forces will be exhibited at Overgaden, followed by a collective creation project to explore the aesthetics of organized violence. Organization theorists Gibson Burrell and Christian de Cock will then engage the audience with their views on the intersection of literature, space, and violence in organization studies, reflecting on future organizations that might be possible and/or desirable in the wake of 2666.
Schedule of the workshop19:00 Damian O’Doherty on the aesthetics of organized violence in Roberto Bolaño’s 2666
19:10 Danish artist Peter Voss Knude speaks about his exhibited work
19:20 Organizers read passages from 2666
19:30 Collective Creation Process lead by Damian O’Doherty
20:15 Gibson Burrell and Christian de Cock: Horror and Organization, reflecting on literature, space and violence in organizations
21:00 Closing statements
To sign up for participation, please send an e-mail with your research interests (a few sentences suffice) to Boukje Cnossen (email@example.com). Refreshments and snacks will be served. The event is free.