Dr. Hannah Wohl: What is Creativity? How Contemporary Artists Judge their Work

Tuesday March 1, 2022
11:00 AM - 12:30 PM


UBC Sociology’s Distinguished Speaker Series hosts Dr. Hannah Wohl for her talk titled, “What is Creativity? How Contemporary Artists Judge their Work.”


What is creativity? Drawing on more than one hundred interviews and two years of ethnographic research in the New York contemporary art market, I develop a sociological perspective of creativity through the analytic lens of judgment. From inside the studio, I show how artists experiment with new ideas and decide which works to abandon, destroy, put into storage, or exhibit. As I reveal, artists do not think of creative results as objectively good or bad. Instead, they pursue ideas that they view as relevant to their creative visions—bundles of core and enduring elements within their oeuvres. Their perceptions of creative visions arise through the process of experimentation itself and are continually reshaped as artists produce new works and ascertain how their works are interpreted by others. Building from these empirical observations, I conceptualize aesthetic judgment as relationally influenced, temporally linked, and emotionally felt. I theorize the creative process as a sequence of judgments directed toward objects that is oriented by social values.

image URL

Dr. Hannah Wohl

About Dr. Hannah Wohl

Dr. Hannah Wohl is an assistant professor of sociology at University of California, Santa Barbara. Her research explores processes of judgment across creative industries. She focuses on how aesthetic judgments interact with other forms of judgment as producers make decisions in the creative process and as others evaluate creative products. Drawing on an ethnography of the New York City contemporary art world, Bound by Creativity: How Contemporary Art is Created and Judged (University of Chicago Press, 2021) advances a sociological perspective of creativity by examining how artists experiment to make distinctive bodies of work. Wohl’s research has won awards from the American Sociological Association’s sections on Culture, Theory, and Consumers and Consumption. It has been published in Sociological Theory, Socio-Economic Review, Poetics, American Journal of Cultural Sociology, and Qualitative Research, among other venues.

Conditions permitting this talk will be held in person at UBC Sociology. Details and RSVP to come.