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On Laboring for Love

Today from our partners at Art Practical, we bring you another installment from their excellent issue on valuing labor in the arts. In this essay, author Elyse Mallouk (also an artist) notes, “While artists struggle publicly to make the value of art work visible, they are bound as a corporate body by the uncertainties and sacrifices they share in common… Artists can gain power by making their deliberations transparent to each other, especially their mixed feelings about their own artistic labor and its value.” This article was originally published on April 3, 2014.

Shannon Finnegan. 8 Hours of Work, 2012 (performance still); Saturday, June 9, 2012, 11 a.m.–7 p.m. Presented by Recession Art in conjunction with Everything Is Index, Nothing Is History at the Invisible Dog, Brooklyn. Courtesy of the Artist.

Shannon Finnegan. 8 Hours of Work, 2012 (performance still); Saturday, June 9, 2012, 11 a.m.–7 p.m. Presented by Recession Art in conjunction with Everything Is Index, Nothing Is History at the Invisible Dog, Brooklyn. Courtesy of the Artist.

Published in Slate in January 2014 and widely circulated on social media, the article “In the Name of Love” argued that an often repeated phrase, “Do what you love; love what you do” communicates an “anti-worker ideology.” The problem with the adage, the author contended, is that it devalues the vast majority of work (the tedious kind) while elevating the type of work—that of a designer or executive, for example—that feeds on the unfulfilling labor of others. In effect, the article reasoned, the phrase divides work and the workforce into “two opposing classes: that which is lovable (creative, intellectual, socially prestigious) and that which is not (boring, unintellectual, undistinguished).” Beyond reinforcing the aphorism’s oversimplifications, the essay neglected a whole group of workers—contemporary artists and cultural producers—who often undertake one type of work to enable another, and experience conflicted feelings about both.

Read the full article here.

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