Abstract

This paper considers the meaning of risk and uncertainty for the participants of the art communities of St. Petersburg. Basing on the empirical materials of four case studies and using the theoretical frame of edgework (S. Lyng), the authors draw some parallels between extreme sports lovers and professional artists. Like extreme sportsmen, artists often see uncertainty as a key value. However, the authors argue that it is not edge but rather ridge that metaphorically portrays the artists’ careers: artists are to produce creative products permanently balancing between triviality and intelligibility, originality and marginality. Community membership helps artists manage some of the risks generated by the highly competitive market of contemporary art in St. Petersburg and more effectively cope with financial, status and career uncertainties. However, this membership also gives rise to new risks such as strong dependence on colleagues, the loss of unique individual style or marginalization along with the whole community. To control these membership risks, the artists have to maintain equilibrium between strong and weak ties, but this balancing brings the communities into the state of permanent disintegration.

Keywords: risk, uncertainty, edgework, art communities, creativity, contemporary art, St. Petersburg, Russia