Value/Labor/Arts: The Manifestos

5.4 / Valuing Labor in the Arts

Value/Labor/Arts: The Manifestos

By Shannon Jackson, Helena Keeffe April 3, 2014

On April 19, 2014, The Arts Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley will stage a day-long Practicum entitled Valuing Labor in the Arts. The gathering invites registered participants to select from the 8 Artist-led Workshops; each is a small-group practicum devised to spur dialogue, action, and art-making around questions of art, labor, and economics. They will also spend some portion of their day in “The Power of Demands and Transparency,” working to develop a Bay Area cultural survey and to expand their own thinking in relation to the Bay Area’s broader labor history. In the early evening, registered participants will re-convene together en masse at the David Brower Center to debrief, to share insights, and to share a meal. In addition to the workshop prompts and featured essays in this issue, we have included here a selection (and a reminder) of some recent and some not-so-very-old manifestos of artists who found themselves asking how they wanted to be valued and wondering whether the available value systems were up to the task. Some worried about authorship and ownership, some about invisibility, some about whether an artists’ union could combat a highly individuating art market that kept artists from working with each other.

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1. The Art Workers' Coalition

by the Art Workers' Coalition


Art Workers Coalition. Courtesy of Primary Information.

“The Art Workers’ Coalition (AWC) was a loose group of artists, writers, and members of the creative community formed in January 1969 after the artist Takis protested the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) by removing his sculpture from their exhibition, The Museum as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age. In the case with Takis, the artist was concerned with his ability to control the exhibition of his work after it had been sold (the Museum had exhibited his work against his wishes because they owned it and felt that their right of ownership superseded his rights as an artist to control its exhibition).This initial protest was a spark that ignited the coalition—which gathered members and concerns exponentially throughout the early months of 1969. At the time, the Art Workers’ Coalition was concerned with the responsibility of museums to artists and aimed their efforts at building a dialogue between themselves and MoMA.”1

Download the demands of the Art Workers' Coalition here.

 

2. A Graphical Call for an Artists Union

by Daniel Blochwitz


Daniel Blochwitz, A Graphical Call for an Artists Union, 2011. Click to enlarge.

 

3. Manifesto for Maintenance Art 1969!

by Mierle Laderman Ukeles


Mierle Laderman Ukeles. Touch Sanitation, 1978-80; handshake ritual with workers of New York City Department of Sanitation. Courtesy of Feldman Gallery, New York.

The mind boggles and chafes at the boredom.
The culture confers lousy status on maintenance jobs =
minimum wages, housewives = no pay.

clean you desk, wash the dishes, clean the floor,
wash your clothes, wash your toes, change the baby’s
diaper, finish the report, correct the typos, mend the
fence, keep the customer happy, throw out the stinking
garbage, watch out don’t put things in your nose, what
shall I wear, I have no sox, pay your bills, don’t
litter, save string, wash your hair, change the sheets,
go to the store, I’m out of perfume, say it again—
he doesn’t understand, seal it again—it leaks, go to
work, this art is dusty, clear the table, call him again,
flush the toilet, stay young.

Download the full version of the Manifesto for Maintenance Art 1969! here.

 

4. An Open Letter to Artists

by Sara Wookey


Sara Wookey performing at the VCA Museum, Melbourne, 2013. Courtesy of the Artist.

I am writing to address three main points: One, to add my voice to the discourse around this event as an artist who was critical of the experience and decided to walk away, a voice which I feel has been absent thus far in the Los Angleles Times and New York Times coverage; Two, to clarify my identity as the informant about the conditions being asked of artists and make clear why I chose, up till now, to be anonymous in regards to my email to Yvonne Rainer; And three, to prompt a shift of thinking of cultural workers to consider, when either accepting or rejecting work of any kind, the short- and long-term impact of our personal choices on the entire field.

Download the full version of an Open Letter to Artists here.

 

5. Standard Deviations

by Helena Keeffe


Helena Keeffe. Standard Deviation, 2013; broadside. Courtesy of the Artist.
What kinds of strategies might artists employ to create a sense of agency when it comes to artistic production? What are the key questions artists should ask themselves in seeking to define standards for valuing their labor? Standard Deviation—a multiphase project that includes a series of conversations, a printed broadside for distribution, and an online forum—addresses these questions so that artists might identify the kinds of opportunities that serve their artistic goals and help them sustain viable practices over time.

Download the full version of the PDF here.

 

6. wo/manifesto

by Working Artists and the Greater Economy (W.A.G.E.)


W.A.G.E., Artist Payment Graphic, excerpt from W.A.G.E. graphic poster of artist survey results, 2011. View the entire poster here.

W.A.G.E. (WORKING ARTISTS AND THE GREATER ECONOMY) WORKS TO DRAW ATTENTION TO ECONOMIC INEQUALITIES THAT EXIST IN THE ARTS, AND TO RESOLVE THEM. 

W.A.G.E. HAS BEEN FORMED BECAUSE WE, AS VISUAL + PERFORMANCE ARTISTS AND INDEPENDENT CURATORS, PROVIDE A WORK FORCE.

W.A.G.E. RECOGNIZES THE ORGANIZED IRRESPONSIBILITY OF THE ART MARKET AND ITS SUPPORTING INSTITUTIONS, AND DEMANDS AN END OF THE REFUSAL TO PAY FEES FOR THE WORK WE'RE ASKED TO PROVIDE: PREPARATION, INSTALLATION, PRESENTATION, CONSULTATION, EXHIBITION AND REPRODUCTION.

W.A.G.E. REFUTES THE POSITIONING OF THE ARTIST AS A SPECULATOR AND CALLS FOR THE REMUNERATION OF CULTURAL VALUE IN CAPITAL VALUE. 

 

7. Yvonne Rainer’s Letter Denouncing Marina Abramovic’s L.A. MOCA Gala

by Yvonne Rainer


Marina Abramovic rehearsed cutting a pastry version of herself at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Courtesy of the New York Times. Photo: Stephanie Diani.

I am writing to protest the “entertainment” about to be provided by Marina Abramovic at the upcoming donor gala at the Museum of Contemporary Art. It has come to my attention that a number of young people will be ensconced under the diners’ tables on lazy Susans and also be required to display their nude bodies under fake skeletons.

Notes

  1. Art Workers' Coalition, "Art Workers' Coalition Statement of Demands" (1969), listed in Lucy R. Lippard, "The Art Workers' Coalition: Not a History," Studio International (London) 180, no. 927 (November 1970), pp 171-172. Description of Art Workers' Coalition courtesy of http://www.primaryinformation.org
  2. "A Graphical Call for an Artists Union" is reproduced here with permission from the author.
  3. "Manifesto For Maintenance Art 1969!" is reproduced here with permission from Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York.
  4. "An Open Call to Artists" is reproduced here with permission from the author.
  5. "Standard Deviations" is reproduced here with permission from the author.
  6. "wo/manifesto" is reproduced here with permsions from the authors.
  7. "Read the Full Text of Yvonne Rainer’s Letter Denouncing Marina Abramovic’s L.A. MOCA Gala," ArtInfo, November 11, 2011. http://blogs.artinfo.com/artintheair/2011/11/11/read-the-full-text-of-yvonne-rainers-letter-denouncing-marina-abramovics-la-moca-gala/

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