Summer Session

Summer Session – Open Letter by Frances Richard

On the final day of our month considering labor in the arts, we bring you an open letter and call to action from Senior Adjunct Frances Richard on labor, value, and unionization. This letter was originally published in an email to the administration at California College of the Arts on June 2, 2016.

Andrea Bowers. Help the Work Along, 2012, Installation view at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects; Photo: Robert Wedemeyer

Andrea Bowers. Help the Work Along, 2012; installation view, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects. Photo: Robert Wedemeyer.

Dear President Beal, Provost Carland, and members of the Administration Negotiating Team,

I have been an adjunct for all my teaching life. For years, this was a professional choice, as it allowed me time and flexibility to pursue the other, equally important aspects of my practice–writing and publishing poetry and criticism, and editing magazines. I’ve written three books and co-authored, contributed to, and edited many more; I’ve written for the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum, Independent Curators International, Creative Time, The New Yorker, BOMB, Aperture, and many others. I’ve won prizes, grants, and fellowships–I write from a residency right now–and I’ve been part of the editorial team at two artist-run publications, Fence and Cabinet. I have a piece in a national magazine (The Nation) going out this week. And I’ve taught across the spectrum of institutions, from the Ivy League to art schools (RISD and Parsons in addition to CCA) to the Bard Prison Initiative.

I know perfectly well that my adjunct colleagues at CCA and at each of the other schools I’ve named could write similar lists. Every long-term adjunct I’ve ever met has a wildly impressive, expansive, and rigorous record of engagement in her field. Often she–my generalized adjunct colleague–excels in several fields at once.

It’s only in the last few years that I have felt the sharp edge of the adjuncting system cutting into my livelihood, and into my sense of the integrity of university education in the US. I used to take pleasure in assuring students that they could become artists, work as freelancers, and thrive: I’d done it, and so had most of my friends. You are artists yourselves, so doubtless you can understand how important it has been to be able to tell students, with absolute honesty, that the path of the creative intellectual and imaginative craftsperson remains open to them in contemporary culture, regardless of their economic and family backgrounds, despite the pressures of a capitalist-realist system whose internal logic reduces every public effort to market value.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – Labor and Looking “Professional”

As we wrap up this month’s Summer Session theme of labor, today we direct our readers to Autumn Whitefield-Madrano’s consideration of the entanglements between beauty, self-presentation, and maintenance at the New Inquiry.

"Professional" clip art.

“Professional” clip art.

In attempting to specify what it means it look “professional,” Whitefield-Madrano finds that labor, both real and perceived, fundamentally underpins this stylistic distinction: “You said you wanted to look professional, and I had no idea what that meant. One person’s professional isn’t going to be another person’s—did you want to look like a news anchor? a stockbroker? a photographer? What does professional mean?” The essay was originally published on February 19, 2016. Read the full article here.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – Mónica Mayer: Si Tiene Dudas… Pregunte at Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo

In keeping with this month’s Summer Session theme of labor, today we revisit Tania Puente’s essay on feminist artist Mónica Mayer’s retrocollective at Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo. Among Mayer’s socially reflexive work is an emphasis on revealing women’s hidden labor, especially the emotional labor of motherhood, marriage, and sexual objectification. This article was first published on March 1, 2016. 

Polvo de gallina negra (Maris Bustamante and Mónica Mayer), ca. 1983; photograph.  Courtesy of the Artist and Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo.

Polvo de Gallina Negra (Mónica Mayer and Maris Bustamante), ca. 1983; photograph. Courtesy of the Artist and Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo.

Si Tiene Dudas… Pregunte [When in Doubt… Ask] at the Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC) is a retrocollective of works by feminist art pioneer Mónica Mayer (b. Mexico City, 1954). “Retrocollective” isn’t a very well-known term[1] and certainly not one that many artists would choose to designate their career retrospective, but Mónica Mayer isn’t like other artists. Since the late ’70s, Mayer has been discussing, rethinking, and refuting issues that are fundamental to the Mexican sociocultural environment: gender, equality, violence, age, body, memory, intimacy, labor, social policies, representation, and all of their possible combinations.

Mayer’s artistic strength lies in the solid community she has formed around her activities, where friendship, empathy, and complicity play a pivotal role. As the exhibition title emphasizes, constant dialogue is her best weapon. It is indeed a Mónica Mayer show, but with a horizontal and collaborative discourse, which curator Karen Cordero Reiman successfully achieves. The exhibition stands as a recognition to the many contributors that have shaped these projects throughout the years. Their joint and fearless efforts have made visible what was previously disregarded from the canonical and patriarchal perspective.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – Help Desk: Getting Paid for Curatorial Work

This week wraps up our month of regarding labor in the arts: work, innovation, collaboration, compensation, and leisure. In this Help Desk column, Bean Gilsdorf answers a question about making money from curatorial pursuits with some help from Fatos Üstek and Kuba Szreder. The article was originally published on May 9, 2016.

Kerry James Marshall. Portrait of a Curator (In Memory of Beryl Wright), 2009; acrylic on PVC, 30 7/8 x 24 7/8 x 1 7/8 in.

Kerry James Marshall. Portrait of a Curator (In Memory of Beryl Wright), 2009; acrylic on PVC; 30 7/8 x 24 7/8 x 1 7/8 in.

I’m a professional curator with over a decade of experience, mostly as a salaried professional. I’d like to be doing more freelance curatorial work, but curators seem to either get paid nothing, absurdly little, or astronomical sums. How can I actually get paid for the work I do?

Whether you’re a curator, an artist, or a critic, there’s one thing we can say for certain about the arts: Experience, skills, and hard work don’t necessarily equate to a decent paycheck. Unfortunately, there is no secret that I could whisper in your ear that would guarantee you a fair wage for your labor. Instead, you could consider what it is about curating independently that appeals to you, and ask yourself what kind of bargain you might be willing to strike in order to meet your goals. You could also think about setting a minimum wage for yourself, a baseline amount that you won’t go under no matter what.

I reached out to two independent curators to get their perspective on this issue. Kuba Szreder said, “This is the question that many of us ask ourselves every day. I am afraid that no one has found a silver bullet to resolve this problem. Speaking from a systemic perspective, the art economy is a cruel economy in which the winner takes all. The distribution of resources and prestige is skewed to the top of hierarchy; there are hundreds of people who aspire to be in the spotlight, but only a few will ever find themselves there. From an individual perspective, one might need to ask whether competing in such a market is really desirable.

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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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