“It usually works out, but you never know”. Emotion Work as a Strategy for Coping in the Insecure Artistic Career.





creative work, emotion work, art, trust, hope, luck, subjectivity


This article explores how contemporary Swedish visual artists manage and make sense of career insecurity through emotion work. The specific emotions discussed in the material are trust, hope and luck. Emotion work is related to coping in an increasingly insecure world of work in late modern capitalism, which has been theorized as relying on the creativity, passion and subjectivity of workers. Through analysing what the artists anticipate of their future careers, the study found the main desire of the artists to be the continuation of their creative endeavour—an endeavour not necessarily related to professional success but rather to identity formation. This understanding of success forms part of two overarching discourses found in the material: art as non-work discourse and the art world as arbitrary discourse, which both relate to certain emotional work when failing/succeeding to uphold the artistic creation. The prestigious arts education of the respondents is analysed as part of sustaining hope of continuation when future career prospects seem grim. Trust and luck are analysed as emotion work in relation to having experiences of success, even though the art world is discursively framed as arbitrary. The concluding argument of the article is that understanding emotion work in relation to the insecure or even failed career can shed light on resources related to social position rather than properties of the individual psyche.

Author Biography

Sofia Lindström, Linköping University

ISAK, Doctoral student

“It always works out somehow”. Artist’s formations of trust and hope in relation to the insecure or unsuccessful career.


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