Are the amateur and the professional each others makeover?

Are the amateur and the professional each others makeover? The notion of the “amateur” marks a distinctive shift in the field of modern cultural production, after which former boundaries between “professional” and “amateurish” were no longer easily pinned down. Amateurs are no longer those cultural figures whose “spleen”, whose “pure” and selfless love for particular objects or arts set them aside from other social groups. It also set them in opposition to professionals who were “only in it for the money”.

In the course of the 20th century, amateurs have become representatives of a cultural ideal – standing in for everything that one was ready to accept as “independent-minded”, “not corrupt”, “ethically sound”, “offbeat” and “innovative”. Certainly, under the influence of different cultural and technological revolutions in different parts of the world, the ethos of the amateur has been socially and economically co-opted thousands of times. In the last decades, it has been continually reconstructed by an all-encompassing global industry of images, objects and services as the very epitome of “creative thinking”, “solution-oriented management” and “innovation”. In this emphatic sense, we can now speak of “professional amateurs”, while “amateurish professional” still retains a negative by-taste.

Such ambiguities around the amateur have been further emphasized by the development of de-localized technologies, together with the wide distribution of electronic commodities, logistics and network connectivity, and are now found not only in cultural scenes but, at closer view, in every single aspect of our daily lives. Technologies have produced new media, new mediated spaces where different interventions happen – in short: today, a huge mass of “users” has gained access to means of mediatized productions. Such different interventions consequently produce different constellations of realities and reflections of an amateurish approach to life. How do we understand such new realities and how can we reflect them?

Miya Yoshida, as an independent curator and a postdoctoral researcher, has worked internationally with different forms of art projects and research. She worked for public commission works in Japan (1990-1997), and coordinated Akihabara TV project (1998), and Toride Art Project (1999). Since 2000, her interests lie in the topics on the notion of subjectivities and new forms of labour. She received MA media and governance at Keio University in 2000, MA art history at Goldsmith College, University of London in 2001, and PhD in Fine Arts at Malmö Art Academy, Lund University in 2006. She has been developing curatorial projects based on artistic research on mobile telephony, The Invisible Landscapes (Malmö in 2003, Bangkok in 2005, Lund in 2006), World in Your Hand (Dresden in 2010), and on amateurism, Labour of Love, Revisited (Seoul in 2011) and The Enthusiast (Heidelberg, forthcoming in 2012). She also contributes text for art/theory magazines, Texte zur Kunst (Germany) and Bijutsu Techo (Japan).