The Labor Issue: Questionnaire

Image result for Art Workers Coalition (AWC)'s "Art Workers Won't Kiss Ass" (1969),

Art Workers Coalition (1969), New York, NY. Photo: Mehdi Khonsari.

In the eighties and nineties there was a lot of talk about “services” and “administration” as new forms of labor being embraced by contemporary artists. These were characterized by art theorists (Benjamin Buchloh, Boris Groys and Nicholas Bourriard, to name a few) as outgrowths of conceptual art’s occupation of language and the supplement over and above the production of objects. Artists such as Andrea Fraser, at the center of a generation of artists tending toward ephemeral and temporary installations or performances, helped not only to explain this shift but also addressed the precarious state such a shift placed artists in as their roles migrated from producing objects to rendering services. Today the artist’s multivalent role as a producer is taken as a given. This is as much a result of our shifting economic conditions, as of evolving cultural expectations. The artist’s mobility as a laborer can no longer be thought of simply as an extension of the “art work” rethought—as it was in the conceptual practices of the seventies. Rather, the artist increasingly finds herself preoccupied by a variety of roles—teacher, writer, curator, maintenance worker, school administrator, marketer, fund raiser, etc.—whatever sort of “art work” it is she thinks of as the ultimate fruits of her labor. For this questionnaire we sought responses to and accounts of the artist within this condition of dispersed labor. We circulated a version of this preamble along with six questions. The responses are posted below in alphabetical order (an artist biography follows each submission). Submissions are published with minimal edits.

Sara Black & Amber Ginsburg | Critical Art Ensemble | Robert Davis | Harrell Fletcher | Michelle Grabner | Matthew Metzger | Boru O’Brien O’Connell | Karen Reimer | Tyler Rowland

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