untitled (work): a reading group

What is our work? When (and where) does it begin and end? How are we paid (and for what)? Is it enough? Are we satisfied? What do we do when we feel tired, burned out, unsupported, or uninspired? How does work affect our relationships? What are the values of the system in which we work? How can we change the system? What happens if we walk away?

This reading group will take up the subject of work to think through ways in which artists and arts workers organize their lives. There is often a very blurred boundary between what we might usually label “work” and “life” in the lives of artists, curators, arts administrators, and others who circulate in the “art world.” The counterbalances in our work-life equations are missing. As a result, our work can sometimes feel (and be) all-consuming in ways that are both pleasurable and painful, exhilarating and exhausting. Looking at articulations of how we (and others) define and delineate our work in the arts as well as at forms of resistance, reorientation, and retreat, we will use historic and contemporary texts to examine our own relationships to work, money, energy, effort, and community.  

Held at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity—a context that offers a unique opportunity for time and space to pursue work in various forms—UNTITLED (WORK) is organized by Liz Rae Heise-Glass and Bree Richards, curators-in-residence with Banff’s International Curatorial Institute, Fall 2018. 

Natascha Sadr Haghighian,  I can’t work like this , 2007, nails and two hammers, 6 feet 6 3/4 inches x 13 feet 1 1/2 inches (200 x 400 cm).

Natascha Sadr Haghighian, I can’t work like this, 2007, nails and two hammers, 6 feet 6 3/4 inches x 13 feet 1 1/2 inches (200 x 400 cm).

Session 1: WORKING, PERFORMING, BEING

In the first session, we will try to define what it is we mean by the term “work.” The nature of work has changed substantially since the dawn of the 20th century (and even since the dawn of the 21st), as automation and technology have transformed the ways in which we “produce.” In the arts, the nature of our work can be even more abstract, and as some argue, what was once understood as an action of “production” has now become a state of “performance.” How do we disentangle ideas of “work” from concepts of “productivity” and “capital”? How do we separate our ideas of our self-worth from the ideological frame of neoliberalism? If work is a way of being rather than a set of actions or tasks, how do we cope with its constancy?

readings:

Maurizio Lazzarato, “Immaterial Labor,” in Radical Thought in Italy: A Potential Politics, edited by Paolo Virno and Michael Hardt and published by the University of Minnesota Press, 1996.

Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle, “Introduction,” in Are You Working Too Much? Post-Fordism, Precarity, and the Labor of Art, an e-flux journal publication published by Sterberg Press, 2011.

Jan Verwoert, “Exhaustion and Exuberance: Ways to Defy the Pressure to Perform,” in Why is Everybody Being So Nice? a publication by the De Appel Curatorial Program, 2016-17. Verwoert’s text was originally published in the journal Dot Dot Dot 15 in 2008.

Macushla Robinson, “Labours of Love: Women’s Labour as the Culture Sector’s Invisible Dark Matter,” in Runway: Australian Experimental Art #32 Re/Production, 2016.

Alberto López Cuenca, “Artistic Labour, Enclosure and the New Economy,” in Afterall: A Journal of Art, Context and Enquiry, Volume 30, Summer 2012.

Anna Gray + Ryan Wilson Paulsen.   100 Posterworks  , 2009-2013.

Anna Gray + Ryan Wilson Paulsen. 100 Posterworks, 2009-2013.

Session 2: ON STRIVING, COMPETITION, AND REFUSAL

In the second week, we’ll begin to think about modes of resistance and refusal. If work as we understand it is constant and tied to systems of capital and consumption, where are the cracks in the system that we might begin to push on? How can we collectively and individually challenge the system to make more room for ourselves and others?

readings:

Hito Steyerl, “Politics of Art: Contemporary Art and the Transition to Post-Democracy,” in Are You Working Too Much? Post-Fordism, Precarity, and the Labor of Art, an e-flux journal publication published by Sternberg Press, 2011.

Marc Fischer, “Against Competition,” in Blunt Art Text (B.A.T.), #2, April 2006.

Heather Anderson, “Retreating in/from Art Institutions,” in PUBLIC 5O: The Retreat, Fall 2014.

Liam Gillick, “The Good of Work” in Are You Working Too Much? Post-Fordism, Precarity, and the Labor of Art, an e-flux journal publication published by Sternberg Press, 2011.

Andrew Berardini, “How to Stop Working Better,” in MOMUS, April 19, 2018.

Lee Lozano page from Notebook 8, dated April 5, 1970.

Lee Lozano page from Notebook 8, dated April 5, 1970.

Session 3: FROM SLOWING DOWN TO DROPPING OUT

Readings in this week explore further paths to resistance to work’s overwhelming and constant demands. Authors write about slowing down, sleeping, and “dropping out” as alternative and cathartic answers to the problem of work.

readings:

Sven Lütticken, “Liberation through Laziness. Some chronopolitical remarks,” in Mousse 42, 2014.

Catherine de Montreuil, “Could We Slow Down a Minute?” in Issue 404 Magazine, no. 7, published by Publication Studio, Vancouver, 2017.

Matt Longabucco, “Sleeping, Hiding, Dropping Out—Coordinates for a Poetic Evasion,” in Haunt Journal of Art, vol. 2, 2015.

Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer, Lee Lozano: Dropout Piece, published by Afterall Books, 2014.