Valuing Labor in the Arts
Issue

5.4 / Valuing Labor in the Arts

April 3 2014

Introduction

Shannon Jackson

Director of the Arts Research Center, UC Berkeley

When is it okay to work for free? Is it acceptable as long as you’re working with—or for—another artist? What is an artistic service? These are just a few of the hundreds of questions circulating for artists working in the 21st-century economy, a scene in which the very old question of art’s financial contingency arguably has a different kind of urgency and opacity. With “Valuing Labor in the Arts,” the Arts Research Center (ARC) gathered artists, curators, organizers, and researchers to work together on such questions.

One key value for ARC is to make sure that artists from various disciplines contribute to the conversations we stage. For this assemblage, we invited a range of artists to create small, artist-led workshops devised to spur dialogue, action, and art making around questions of art, labor, and economics.

This special double-issue of Art Practical, curated by the Arts Research Center, served as a primer for the April 19, 2014 gathering and now includes more responses and meditative essays from writers working in economics, sociology, art history, performance studies, dance, film studies, and literature. All of these texts, along with work produced in situ, have helped us both to document our processes and to reflect further on the issues explored.

Most of our workshops were limited to small groups to allow for meaningful creation within the parameters of the workshop. While we were acutely aware that this depth of interaction necessarily limited those who had access to it, the hope now is that the ideas raised in these exercises and articles can be widely shared and will provide fodder for more.

Features

Value/Labor/Arts: A Primer

Value/Labor/Arts: A Primer

Helena Keeffe

These statements are protests against common hypocrisies among cultural organizations, and pose a positive alternative to an equally ubiquitous pressure to perform.

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Appropriate Technologies

Appropriate Technologies

Abigail Satinsky

For an aspiring artist, thinking about one’s artistic practice as an entrepreneurial venture to be branded and marketed is becoming the default professional mode.

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Market Fitness

Market Fitness

Christian Nagler

Whether fatal or profitable, however, the question remains: how to exist as ordinary bodies in relation to “unlisted, virtual, offshore” entities

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On Laboring for Love

On Laboring for Love

Elyse Mallouk

The necessary constraints my job applies to the rest of my life can create urgency and impel focus in my art work but also drain me of the energy to be industrious

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(Un)doing (Un)compensation

(Un)doing (Un)compensation

Caroline Woolard

What are the conditions that make overproduction desirable? When did monetary payment for art and activism become necessary?

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Columns

Response: Dear Christian

Response: Dear Christian

Claudia La Rocco

How we are implicated, being in this system? Do you really believe that as art teachers we exist firmly in the service economy? 

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Response: Common Measure in Kind

Response: Common Measure in Kind

Shannon Jackson

After the craft making, after the questionnaires, after the yoga, the debt screams, and the ad-hoc curating—we adjourned to a larger plenary space to think together about what we had wrought.

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Response: Hammering It Out

Response: Hammering It Out

Julia Bryan-Wilson

One sculpture, Jonathan Borofsky’s large, red Hammering Man (1976–1983), part of the Berkeley Art Museum’s permanent collection, kept returning to me so insistently it felt like it was haunting me.

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Reviews

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