Summer Session

Summer Session – Valuing Labor in the Arts: Prompts for Eight Workshops

Continuing our labor-themed Summer Session, today we bring you an excerpt from “Yoga for Adjuncts: The Somatics of Human Capital,” a workshop led by Christian Nagler on April 19, 2014. The workshop was part of a daylong practicum at the Arts Research Center (ARC) at the University of California, Berkeley, entitled “Valuing Labor in the Arts.” This “prompt” was originally published on our sister site Art Practical on April 3, 2014.

Yoga for Adjuncts: The Somatics of Human Capital workshop, Valuing Laboring in the Arts practicum, April 19, 2014, UC Berkeley Art Museum. Courtesy of the Arts Research Center, UC Berkeley. Photo: Megan Hoetger.

Yoga for Adjuncts: The Somatics of Human Capital workshop, Valuing Laboring in the Arts practicum, April 19, 2014, UC Berkeley Art Museum. Courtesy of the Arts Research Center, UC Berkeley. Photo: Megan Hoetger.

Greetings, practitioners!
Let’s begin by balancing on one leg. Good. (Or if you can, try balancing on zero legs!)
Feeling shaky? Remember: Falling over is all right. Precariousness is the greatest teacher.
Let me start off with a simple fact: Art schools—which employ at intermittent, patchwork intervals a large number of urban cultural workers, teaching artists—have led the way toward loosening the rigid idea of the educator as a wage-earner.
Another fact: The private art schools are quantitatively assessed and overseen by tech-entrepreneur trustee boards and investment bankers with teams of consultants to translate their risk-management strategies into administrative policies.
Let’s accept this situation—let it sink in. Let it quiver under the fasciae.
We can’t go home again. We can’t go back. We have only what is now.
Or, to put it another way: Let’s find a new home in the floating world of today’s institutions, of managed, interlocking slots of short-term labor.
Let’s take some deep breaths.

Read the full article here.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – Baker/Rapoport/Wick

Continuing our labor-themed Summer Session, today we direct you to video documentation of the work of Baker/Rapoport/Wick, a collective formed by the artists Mary Winder Baker, Debra Rapoport, and Susan Wick. The artists discuss the nature of their installation and performance work, saying, “We make certain assumptions that people can work collectively and collaboratively, but the reason we get hired to do things is because people can’t do things collaboratively.” This video is in the collection of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and you can watch it on the Internet Archive here

Video still from Baker/Rapoport/Wick, 1977.

Video still from Baker/Rapoport/Wick, 1977.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – Value/Labor/Arts: The Manifestos

This installment of our Summer Session considering labor comes from our sister publication Art Practical. In 2014, the Arts Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, held a day-long practicum entitled Valuing Labor in the Arts, and today we’re sharing a collection of artists manifestos put together by organizers Shannon Jackson and Helena Keeffe. This article was originally published on April 3, 2014.

Art Workers Coalition. Courtesy of Primary Information.

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.

Read the full article here.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – Akram Zaatari at SFMOMA

As part of this month’s Summer Session regarding the theme of labor, today we bring you a video clip from our friends at SFMOMA. Artist Akram Zaatari describes the work of Hashem el Madani, the first person to own a 35mm camera in Saïda, Lebanon. Zaatari calls Madani the “photographer of the working class,” whose studio both documented daily life in the city and became an important place of cultural transaction.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – Vipralambha (Union Through Separation)

This month we’re taking an in-depth look at the nexus of labor and art, and today from our friends at Guernica we bring you an excerpt from an essay by Simon Coates, who discusses a project completed with his collaborator Zahra Jewanjee: “Vipralambha didn’t start life as a paean to the Indo-Pak workforce in Dubai. The stated aim of the piece was to meld sounds from two countries that share a border.” This article was originally published on July 15, 2013.

Zahra-Jewanjee-and-Simon-Coates

The artists Zahra Jewanjee and Simon Coates.

There’s a continuous, all-pervading hum in Dubai. It’s a complex sound made up of industrial chundering, motor engines, water-pumps, and electric crackle. Dubai sounds restless, kind of like an unsleeping giant dogged by insomnia. On top of that, layer sporadic jangles of Hindi and Arabic pop, guffaws, and calls to prayer from minarets. Add engine-revving and mall muzak. Fireworks fizz. This is the sound of Ted Hughes’s Iron Man in a Lamborghini baseball cap, wearing a dishdasha, eyelids heavy, BlackBerry nearby. It’s under this mantle that Zahra Jewanjee and I made our first sound art piece, Vipralambha (Union Through Separation). Vipralambha is a soothing Sanskrit word (uncovered by Zahra) that conveys the sense of unrequited longing that is an exquisite pain. Zahra and I are artists living and working in Dubai. Zahra is from Lahore, I’m from London. Made from a collection of field sound recordings, Vipralambha is our antidote.

While in Lahore, Zahra had made some recordings at the tomb of Sufi Saint Baba Shah Jamal where, once a week, crowds come to watch devotees dance and drum themselves into trance-like states. She had also recorded a Lahore transvestite named Madam singing a popular song called “Shamma Pay Gaiya.” In its original form, “Shamma Pay Gaiya” is mere corny pop. However Madam’s own a capella version imbues the Punjabi lyrics with a true sense of the longing that is central toVipralambha. For myself, I had spent some time in Kerala in South India, returning to Dubai with recordings of the announcer at the Alappuzha railway station, the Kathakali dance school in Fort Kochi, and crows during the monsoon in Kovalam, among others.

Read the full article here.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – Amer Kobaslija at Arthur Roger Gallery

For the first part of our Summer Session, we’re thinking about labor, and today we’re considering the traditional site of artistic work: the studio. Author  notes: “If the studio has traditionally been a place of solace from reality’s complications, this exhibition seems to respond with urgent ambiguity by asking important and unresolved questions about the place of artistic practice within today’s society, and the traditions of Western art making that have not (and will not) go away.” This article was originally published on May 19, 2015.

Amer Kobaslija. Sputnik Sweetheart of New Orleans and the End of the World. 2007. Oil on two panels. 85 x 124 ¼ in.

Amer Kobaslija. Sputnik Sweetheart of New Orleans and the End of the World, 2007; oil on two panels; 85 x 124 ¼ in.

In his 1971 essay “The Function of the Studio,” conceptual artist Daniel Buren defined the artist’s studio as a metadiscourse of “frames, envelopes, and limits” imposed upon the working artist in the age of advanced capitalism.[1] Claiming that this privileged space had become nothing more than an “ossified custom”—a “commercial depot” for curators and dealers to ship works out into the world (and thus detach the artwork from the conditions of production and site of creation)—Buren stated that artists could only resist the domestication of their work by preserving it within their studios forever (like Constantin Brancusi) or abandoning the four walls of the studio altogether for a life of art making away from institutional repression and commodification.

Buren’s provocation turns on the idealized notion of the modern atelier, described famously by Honoré de Balzac in his 1831 Romantic tale of artistic failure, “The Unknown Masterpiece.”[2] Setting the story in a cramped, skylit room cluttered with the detritus of an artist’s struggles—the idealized working environment for the solitary male genius of 19th-century literature and art—Balzac dramatized the central dilemma of the studio as both a mental and physical space that encloses the corporeal and psychic “energy essential to art’s existence.”[3] Thus, Buren’s desire to reconnect the studio with social life seems to fall in line with our current era of “post-internet artistry,” where nomadic career paths, collaborative practices, work-from-home jobs, and overnight internet art stars are the norm, and notions of passive aesthetic contemplation and private retreat are interpreted as oppressive and old-fashioned.

A quick trip to any café exposes the ominous cloud that hangs over Buren’s call for a “post-studio” age, as Starbucks and pay-as-you-go office space evolves into the new office for artists, students, and creative professionals clicking away on their laptops. Yet the mythology of the sacred atelier persists in our contemporary culture, as Amer Kobaslija’s current series of paintings at Arthur Roger Gallery in New Orleans indicates. Taking up the weighty legacy of the artist’s studio, Kobaslija’s work explores the studio as a concept, a locus of artistic identity, a space of sociability or private retreat, an alchemical universe of transformation, as well as a psychological construct.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – Reskill Now!

Today’s installment of our Summer Session considering labor comes from our sister publication Art Practical. Author Celeste Connor contributes an Op-Ed that claims, “To fetishize style trends, as institutions do, as singular models for development of cultural ideas and actions is tragicomically flattening. If we makers are serious about the goal of a growing, inclusive public, reskilling is a crucial antidote.” This article was originally published on June 16, 2015.

Suzanne Lacy. Still from the making of The Roof Is on Fire, 1992–94. To make this work, a collaborative performance directed by Lacy and documented in photos, videos, and a film, 220 inner-city teens in 100 cars came together on the garage roof of Oakland’s Federal Building to talk openly, with predetermined topics but no script, in front of “eavesdropping” audiences and cameras.

Suzanne Lacy. Still from the making of The Roof Is on Fire, 1992–94. To make this work, a collaborative performance directed by Lacy and documented in photos, videos, and a film, 220 inner-city teens in 100 cars came together on the garage roof of Oakland’s Federal Building to talk openly, with predetermined topics but no script, in front of “eavesdropping” audiences and cameras.

A narrow, forty-five-year-old theory called “deskilling” haunts art education on the West Coast, and Bay Area art schools need to consider its many consequences, especially at the graduate level. Deskilling theory itself, and some theoretical misreadings resulting from it, require reexamination. As predicted by early socialist Arts and Crafts leaders such as the artist–activist William Morris when the first deskilling of art and other markets occurred in England a century and a half ago, the social role and economic status of artists, architects, and designers has indeed diminished as a result.

In 1971, some Los Angeles–based artists, among them John Baldessari, often called the godfather of Conceptual art, who was then and still is on the faculty at California Institute of the Arts, coined the term “post-studio art” to describe work done in one’s head. If an artist has an idea, in other words, the work is as good as carried out. In this view, not only do visual images and objects play a role secondary to concept, but adherents go so far as to claim that text and image are the same; words and pictures are treated as if semantically identical and their important differences are ignored. But what happens when you do not speak the language? Useful analytic language now lags behind making as much as theory lags behind practice. Art language as it has evolved today is hyper-rational, tediously abstract, and known only by an elite.

That mode of analytical language did not enter the picture until a decade after post–studio art’s birth was announced. In 1981, the Australian artist Ian Burn, part of the Art and Language group, used the word “deskilling” to describe the way that vanguard artists of the 1960s divested themselves of the customary obligations of physical production to privilege conception and presentation. The term was subsequently mobilized by others, especially the art historian and October theorist Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, who defined deskilling as the “persistent effort to eliminate artisanal competence and other forms of manual virtuosity from the horizon of both artistic production and aesthetic evaluation.”

Read the full article here.

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