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This case was brought to our attention by curator Ruth Noack, who was invited to curate the Ljubljana Graphic Arts Biennale in the fall of 2013, by its director Nevenka Sivavec (also director of The International Centre of Graphic Arts in Ljubljana).
In the fall of 2013, I and my then partner Roger M.Buergel were invited to curate the Ljubljana Graphic Arts Biennale 2015 by Nevenka Sivavec. As he was not interested, I took up negotiations on my own and came to an agreement in March 2014. As time was so short, Nevenka and I agreed that we should start working on the Biennale and do the formal contract when the institution’s lawyer would be available. Upon this, I started to work seriously on the Biennale for two months, visiting Ljubljana twice, doing research, contacting experts, inviting and working with artists, talking to potential institutional partners. I also successfully raised funds from external sources.
Two months into this working process, the meeting with the lawyer was scheduled. We went through what I believed to be the normal first steps: Nevenka informed me that the budget had been cut substantially and I informed them that I wanted to pay my tax in my home country. A point of contention was that I refused to sign a contract which would state the number of artists to be invited, which the institution wanted me to do.
We parted without any indication that anything was seriously amiss; but few days later, I received an email that plainly stated that Nevenka had decided not to continue our working relationship.
Up to this day, I have not been given a reason for this decision, not been reimbursed for my work and not had my personal effects returned to me.
Ruth Noack (curator documenta 12, 2007)
In an email dated May 26th, 2014, Sivavec informed Noack that she simply decided “not to work with you,” without giving any explanation. In another email dated May 28th, the director promissed Noack that she would be reimbursed for costs, in the very modest amount of 500EUR for her “engagement,” a fee which Noack claims that she never received, nor did she receive her personal effects back. Meanwhile, Noack had turned down several projects because of the biennale appointment. Sivavec did not answer ArtLeaks request to comment on this case.
According to a recent announcement, Nicola Lees has now been appointed to curate the biennale, which is set to open in August 2015.
The meeting began with a consciousness-raising workshop led by the AG Arbeit (part of Haben und Brauchen) in which the participants formed groups that debated personal questions related to their free time, labor conditions, aspirations/reality, challenges. This gave a common ground between participants who came from different cultural/creative fields and had diverse expectations from the meeting. This was followed by an art bonds auction led by Arts & Economics(A&E) members, in which drawings by Vladan Jeremic for ArtLeaks were exchanged. A&E presented on their activities related to their economics of art production and economic activity as a performative art practice. ArtLeaks members presented the new issue of the ArtLeaks Gazette, using case studies from the publication to stir the discussion.
Some of the questions raised during the assembly that followed were: How can we challenge ourselves to re-imagine fairer relationships to institutions, organizations, networks and economies involved in the production and consumption of art and culture? What joint actions are possible in our collective search for cultural spaces and educational platforms beyond the logic of neoliberal economy? What new ways of unionizing precarious labor exist and could they be adapted to cultural workers? How can we politicize voluntary working relations, and in seemingly activist contexts ? What difficulties do we encounter by addressing these relations ? Does a collectively developed practice of politicizing work ethics enable us to pinpoint and face exploitative situations when working with or for institutions?
Some reactions, comments, reflections that emerged from the discussions:
- The reserve army of labor is very present in Berlin. Berlin has a big mass of registered artists. Art Universities are incubators for the future reserve army of art labor. The problem is that artists do not want to see themselves as workers. Therefore there is a challenge, to burst ideological balloon of anti-workers image of artists. This is a precondition to agitate about.
- We should distinguish between levels of precarity: for example, berry pickers from Thailand working in the forests of Finland are in a more precarious situation then some art workers. In any case, the intensity of precarity is defined by the position of the precarious worker in the process of production and exploitation.
- Social institutions of the welfare state are devastated in the East but also in the West; still the west offers better working conditions and labor codes. Unfortunately in the eastern Europe, the labor code is changed in order to maximize exploitation. Unskilled workers are under huge pressure. This also influences art workers.
- Art workers have to connect with other workers’ unions and can not stay alone in their specialized filed. Trade-Unions are in the crisis, they can not keep up with the speed of capitalist transactions. Artists could help unions and unions could help artists. Traditional unions have tried recently to unionize precarious workers (the case of Verdi in Germany) but those steps are just the beginning. We need to find models for artists on local and on international level. One level without the other does not work. It would be useful to organize a bigger conference where we could invite professional experts from the trade-unions, who had experience with unionizing precarious work.
- ArtLeaks continues to develop mechanisms of public pressure against bad practices and employers, both on the local and international level. At the meeting we discussed the recent case of Vienna-based curator Nicolaus Schafhausen who withdrew from the Bucharest Biennale 6 because of the practices of blacklisting, censorship and lack of transparency of the host organization.
- We need to connect with similar initiatives in the world and to report cases. We need to implement stable coalition. Some list of contacts on our website of traditional local artists unions, but also new initiatives would be relevant in order to connect them all into strong network. It is a huge shame for art-world that only paid mailing lists such as e-flux serve as kind of networking tool. Artworkers need better unionizing tools/ networks that are not profit oriented.
- ArtLeaks’ work is not only related to issues of censorship, but more and more toward labor issues. Therefore, we need some special chapter on the website, like for example ArtLeaks Labor, or a similar chapter where issues on unionizing could be discussed and contacts listed.
Vladan Jeremic /ArtLeaks
- Artists are, as much as any worker, subject to ‘austerity’ programs and other exploitative strategies, but their production is not necessary as is the production of food.
- There was recently a discussion in an art school in the Netherlands, weather students would mind if the school changed its name to replace arts with “creative industries”, and almost no-one seemed to mind. So maybe if “artists” became “creative industrial workers” they could get more respect from the government. It is a bit of an ironic response, but you all must have noticed that the notion of artistic “work” has spread out to include all manner of activities which formerly would have been excluded.
- I think the notion of “creative industrial workers” may have more solidarizing potential in this day and age. People like to call themselves artist and may like to experiment with the idea of withholding artistic services to militate for better conditions. A conference may be a good idea but first you definitely need a constituency which could be served by the militancy the conference will inform.
- Corruption is not just rampant in the art world, it is undeniably one of its raisons-d’être. To “clean up” the institutions we need to clean up the ministries of culture, and that is a tall order. Meanwhile there can be a lot accomplished with regard to sexism and other unfair discrimination through whistleblowing.
- We need a better WWW where cash doesn’t determine what information you see first. A wiki with a general ratings system for arts institutions may not be a bad idea, where you can give each institution for example 1-10 for transparency, fairness, rate of payment, quickness of payment, etc. with commentary; a handy reference for all art workers would be salutary.
- An apocalyptic scenario: we militate for better conditions and then the government shuts down the museums because they are “too expensive to run”. Then we will need to take over the museums ourselves. Hopefully we will do better with the power than our predecessors.
Baruch Gottlieb /Arts&Economics Group
- How to unionize? is a good question but is anyone seriously trying that, or is it doomed to be a rhetorical question? Maybe it would be better to ask, what are experiences with or with absence of solidarity in the art field, and lets discuss proposals how to solidarise temporarily around certain matters/ locally and internationally?
- During the final discussion, some proposals were made how to continue awareness raising, or naming and blaming methods towards institutions/ a kind of sign or positive label for those institutions that apply certain standards of wages and fees for art workers etc. Something like these eco food certificates for example. I think that this idea goes a bit in the direction of W.A.G.E. certificates. It would be good to discuss their work in detail. Moreover, they have put so much work in it, why not try to adapt and use their certificate in Europe, too?
Naomi Hennig/ Haben und Brauchen
The following drawing series entitled “Towards a didactic vocabulary of art workers struggles” (by Corina L. Apostol, Federico Geller, Vladan Jeremic, Juergen Stollhans) was shared freely at the opening of “Artist Fair,” at Galerie Im Turm, curated by Naomi Hennig. This exhibition that focused on the labor conditions of young artists working in Berlin, and especially those who work for large scale events such as Berlin Art Week. At the opening, people were invited to select one drawing from the series as a gift, and discuss them in groups with the artists and each other. As a whole, the series is a visual dictionary, representing a new language that aims to improve art workers struggles.
Art Workers’ Assembly in Berlin
As neoliberalism holds a tight grips over our societies, its violent symptoms have become normalized for all of us. While exploitation and censorship are commonplace, the ingenuity and creative abilities of art workers are hijacked by cultural managers and institutions. In this context, the reassessment of the situation of precarious art/workers, already undertaken by international groups of art workers, continues to be a pressing issue. How can we further challenge ourselves to re-imagine fairer relationships to institutions, organizations, networks and economies involved in the production and consumption of art and culture? What joint actions are possible in our collective search for cultural spaces and educational platforms beyond the logic of neoliberal economy? What new ways of unionizing precarious labor exist and could they be adapted to cultural workers?
Presentations by members of ArtLeaks (Corina Apostol, Vladan Jeremic, Federico Geller), AG Arbeit (Haben und Brauchen), Arts & Economics Group (Tanja Ostojic, Baruch Gottlieb)
Free and open to anyone who is interested.
15.00- 16.45 – Precarity / Art / Labour presentations and discussion
16.45-17.15 – Art Bonds Auction hosted by the Arts&Economics Group
17.15-18.45 – Art Workers Organizations / On Unionizing presentations and discussion
18.45- 19.00 – Break
19.00 – 20.00 – Assembly discussions
According to its previous working process AG Arbeit of Haben und Brauchen aims to contribute methods of questioning our own working conditions as artists and cultural workers whose work often takes place in self-organized contexts. How can we politicize such voluntary working relations as AG Arbeit, and in seemingly activist contexts ? What difficulties do we encounter by addressing these relations ? Does a collectively developed practice of politicizing work ethics enable us to pinpoint and face exploitative situations when working with or for institutions?
The Art & Economics Group, established in Berlin in 2007 by Tanja Ostojic, David Rych and Dmytri Kleiner, investigates the intersection of art and political economy. Economics Quarterly Forums are performative events incorporating rituals relating to art and political economy. Topics include political economy as a theme in art, the economics of art production and economic activity as an action based art practice.
ArtLeaks is a collective platform initiated by an international group of artists, curators, art historians and intellectuals in response to the abuse of their professional integrity and the open infraction of their labor rights. We initiate and provide the community with online tools available on http://art-leaks.org/, which are open for use by anyone. ArtLeaks organizes workshops, seminars, assemblies and produces an annual publication dedicated to art workers’ struggles from around the world.
Berlin, Friday, September 12th, 3-8 PM, Flutgraben
Am Flutgraben 3
Then on Sunday, September 14th, 7 PM ArtLeaks members will make a presentation and a didactic drawing at the opening of “Artist Fair,” an exhibition focused on the labor conditions of young artists working in Berlin at Galerie Im Turm.
Frankfurter Tor 1
Posters by Federico Geller with Vladan Jeremić.
Special thanks to Naomi Hennig.
We, the majority of artists and participants of the 31st São Paulo Bienal who have opposed any association of our work with Israeli State funding, today had our appeal heard by the Fundação Bienal São Paulo.
Just one week ago we were confronted by the fact that the Israeli state is contributing to the funding of the exhibition as a whole, which for a majority of us is unacceptable. Following collective negotiations the Fundação Bienal de São Paulo has committed to clearly disassociate Israeli funding from the general funding of the exhibition. The logo of the Israeli Consulate, which was presented as a general sponsor of the event, will now only be related to those Israeli artists who received that specific financial support. This transparency will be applied to all state funding for artists in the Bienal.
We the artists and participants of the 31st São Paulo Bienal refuse to support the normalization of Israel’s ongoing occupation of the Palestinian people. We believe Israeli state cultural funding directly contributes to maintaining, defending and whitewashing their violation of international law and human rights.
The artists in this event have shown that they have agency in demanding transparency concerning the sponsorship of cultural events and they have raised the fundamental issue of how funding can compromise and undermine their work.
The struggle for self-determination of the Palestinian people is reflected in the work of many artists and participants in this Bienal that are involved with human rights and people’s struggles worldwide including Brazil. The oppression of one concerns that of all.
ARTISTAS DA BIENAL DE SÃO PAULO SE DISSOCIAM DO FINANCIAMENTO DE ISRAEL
Nós, a maioria dos artistas e participantes da 31ª Bienal de São Paulo, que nos opusemos a qualquer associação de nossos trabalhos com o financiamento do Estado de Israel, tivemos, hoje, nosso apelo ouvido pela Fundação Bienal de São Paulo.
Há uma semana fomos confrontados com o fato de que o Estado de Israel figura como um dos financiadores da exposição como um todo, o que, para a maioria de nós, é inaceitável. Após negociações coletivas, a Fundação Bienal de São Paulo se comprometeu a desassociar claramente o financiamento israelense do financiamento total da exposição. O logo do Consulado de Israel, que havia sido apresentado como patrocinador master do evento, agora será relacionado aos artistas israelenses que receberam aquele apoio financeiro específico. Essa transparência será aplicada a todos os financiamentos nacionais para artistas na Bienal.
Nós, artistas e participantes da 31ª Bienal São Paulo, recusamos apoiar a normalização das ocupações conduzidas continuamente por Israel na Palestina. Acreditamos que o apoio cultural do Estado de Israel contribui diretamente para manter, defender e limpar suas violações de leis internacionais e direitos humanos.
Os artistas deste evento não apenas mostraram que têm organização ao demandar transparência referente ao financiamento de eventos culturais, mas também levantaram a questão fundamental de como o financiamento pode comprometer e minar a razão de existência de seus trabalhos.
A luta por autodeterminação do povo Palestino se reflete nos trabalhos de muitos artistas e participantes da Bienal, envolvidos com direitos humanos e lutas populares em escala global.
A opressão de um é a opressão de todos.
We, the curators of the 31st Bienal de São Paulo, support the artists and understand their position.
We believe that the statement and demand by the artists should also be a trigger to think about the funding sources of major cultural events. In the 31st Bienal, much of the work seeks to show that struggles for justice in Brazil, Latin America and elsewhere in the world are connected. The idea of living in transformational times is fundamental to this Bienal, times when old patterns of behaviour are exhausted and long-held beliefs are questioned. This transformation also affects the relationship between curators and organisers of major cultural events such as this Bienal. At the outset, we accepted the traditional agreement in which curators have artistic freedom and the Foundation has responsibility for the financial and administrative affairs. The Bienal de São Paulo Foundation has very correctly kept to this agreement throughout. In our turn, we assisted in international fundraising.
However, as a consequence of this situation, alongside other incidents at similar events worldwide, it is clear that the sources of cultural funding have an increasingly dramatic impact on the supposedly ‘independent’ curatorial and artistic narrative of an event. The funding, whether state, corporate or private, fundamentally shapes the way the public receives the work of artists and curators.
While this is a wider issue than the 31st Bienal de São Paulo, we ask that the Foundation revise their current rules of sponsorship and ensure that artists and curators agree to any support that is forthcoming for their work and that may have an impact on its content and reception.
Nuria Enguita Mayo
Read the artists’ initial letter here.
Nós, os curadores da 31 Bienal de São Paulo, apoiamos os artistas e entendemos sua posição.
Acreditamos que a declaração e a demanda dos artistas deve ser também um gatilho para pensar sobre fontes de financiamento de grandes eventos culturais. Na 31 Bienal, muitos trabalhos buscam mostrar a luta por Justiça no Brasil, na América Latina e em outros lugares do mundo. A ideia de viver numa era de transformações é fundamental para essa Bienal, tempos em que antigos padrões e comportamentos estão esgotados e crenças arraigadas são questionadas. Essas transformações também afetam a relação entre curadores e organizadores de grandes eventos culturais como essa Bienal. No início, aceitamos o tradicional acordo no qual curadores têm liberdade artística e a Fundação é responsável por assuntos financeiros e administrativos. A Fundação Bienal, com muita correção, manteve esse acordo. De nossa parte, ajudamos no financiamento internacional.
No entanto, em consequência dessa situação, junto com outros incidentes e similares eventos, está claro que fontes de financiamento cultural têm um impacto dramático nas suposta “independência” das curadorias e narrativas artísticas de um evento. O financiamento, seja ele estatal, corporativo ou privado, molda de maneira fundamental a forma com que o público recebe o trabalho de artistas e curadores.
Por ser esse ser um tema maior do que a 31 Bienal, pedimos à Fundação que revise suas regras atuais de patrocínio e se certifique de que artistas e curadores concordem com qualquer apoio para seu trabalho que possa ter um impacto em seu conteúdo e recepção.
Nuria Enguita Mayo
Open letter to the Fundacão Bienal São Paulo
We, the undersigned artists participating in the 31st Bienal have been suddenly confronted, just as the show is about to open, with the fact that the Fundação Bienal de São Paulo has accepted money from the Israeli state and that the Israeli Consulate logo appears in the Bienal pavilion and on its publications and website.
At a time in which the people of Gaza return to the rubble of their homes, destroyed by the Israeli military we do not feel it is acceptable to receive Israeli cultural sponsorship. In accepting this funding our artistic work displayed in the exhibition is undermined and implicitly used for whitewashing Israel’s on going aggressions and violation of international law and human rights. We reject Israel’s attempt to normalise itself within the context of a major international cultural event in Brazil.
With this statement, we appeal to the Fundação Bienal to refuse this funding and to take action on this matter before the opening of the exhibition.
1. Agnieszka Piksa
2. Alejandra Riera
3. Ana Lira
4. Andreas Maria Fohr
5. Asier Mendizabal
6. Chto Delat collective: Dmitry Vilensky, Tsaplya Olga Egrova, Nikolay Oleynikov
7. Danica Dakic
8. Débora Maria da Silva and Movimento Mães de Maio
9. Erick Beltran
10. Etcetera… / Federico Zukerfeld/Loreto Garin Guzman
11. Farid Rakun
12. Francisco Casas y Pedro Lemebel (Yeguas del Apocalipsis)
13. Gabriel Mascaro
14. Graziela Kusch
15. Grupo Contrafilé
16. Gulsun Karamustafa
17. Halil Altindere
18. Heidi Abderhalden
19. Imogen Stidworthy
20. Ines Doujak
21. Jakob Jakobsen
22. John Barker
23. Jonas Staal
24. Lia Perjovschi and Dan Perjovschi
25. Liesbeth Bik and Jos van der Pol
26. Lilian L’Abbate Kelian
27. Loreto Garin
28. Luis Ernesto Díaz
29. Mapa Teatro-Laboratorio de Artistas
30. María Berríos
31. Maria Galindo & Esther Argollo, Mujeres Creando
32. Mark lewis
33. Marta Neves
34. Michael Kessus Gedalyovich
35. Miguel A. López
36. Nilbar Güres
37. Otobong Nkanga
38. Pedro G. Romero Archivo F.X.
39. Prabhakar Pachpute
40. Rolf Abderhalden
41. Romy Pocztaruk
42. Ruanne Abou-Rahme Basel Abbas
43. Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti
44. Santiago Sepúlveda
45. Sergio Zevallos
46. Sheela Gowda
47. Tamar Guimarães e Kasper Akhøj
48. Thiago Martins de Melo
49. Tiago Borges
50. Tony Chakar
51. Voluspa Jarpa
52. Walid Raad
53. Ximena Vargas
54. Yael Bartana
The Bienal de São Paulo was initiated in 1951 and is the second oldest art biennial in the world after the Venice Biennial, which was set up 1895 and served as its role model. The 31st Bienal de São Paulo is curated by Charles Esche, Galit Eilat, Nuria Enguita Mayo, Pablo Lafuente and Oren Sagiv. More information here.
List of participating artists and projects here.
Since June 14th, 2011, a community of artists and citizens has transformed Teatro Valle, the oldest and most prestigious theatre in Rome, then at high risk of privatization, into the “Teatro Valle Occupato”, one of the most advanced experiments merging political struggle and performing arts in the current world. A trust-like legal entity, the “Fondazione Teatro Valle Bene Comune” was created in the interest of future generations, with a membership of almost 6.000 people by a genuinely new process of cooperation between some well-known jurists and the Assembly of artists and citizens. While a notary has recognized the Foundation, the Prefect of Rome has denied its moral personality on the assumption that possession was not a sufficient title on the Valle premises.
Nevertheless, in three years the occupation, though formally never authorized, has succeeded in becoming a new institution of the commons, studied by scholars worldwide and the object of many publications. Because no authority in Rome has ever asked the occupants to leave and the municipality has paid the energy bill (roughly 90.000 Euros per year), it would be difficult to deny that the occupation was largely tolerated (even by the previous post-fascist mayor). Certainly the occupants have taken very good care of the ancient Theater, including paying for small renovations, and have generated three years of exceptionally interesting shows, performances, meeting, educational programs that the population could attend on the basis of a donation system according to the possibilities of each one. The Valle experience has also inspired similar actions to protect theaters and public spaces throughout Italy; it is promoting a nation-wide experiment of codification of commons institutions involving some twenty of the leading academic lawyers in Italy; it has produced its own shows performed Europe-wide and has attracted to the Valle some of the best-known artists and intellectuals in Europe.
The European Cultural Foundation, among others has granted the prestigious Princess Margriet Award 2014 to the Teatro Valle and the ZKM of Karlsruhe has devoted to that experience a stand in a recent major International exhibition on social movements worldwide.
After the European Elections last May, possibly as a consequence of an ill-conceived legalistic stance by the new Government, early negotiations to settle the dispute concerning the title to the Theater have been suddenly terminated as the Assessor of Rome responsible for culture in Rome has been removed and not replaced. As a reply to the Foundation request to resume negotiations, the new major of Rome, a member of the ruling Democratic Party and a well-known academic doctor, has released two days ago a statement asking the occupants to leave, threatening police intervention and proposing a public auction to privatize the management of the space.
A meeting between the Foundation, the new Head of Culture Giovanna Marinelli, president of the Cultural Commission of the City and representatives of the Teatro di Roma followed. Requests for a public and transparent dialogue path, which is a guarantee for the 5600 members, with the aim of managing the delicate phase of transition towards a model of participated theater, was offset by the conditio sine qua nonfor the immediate release of the theatre.
This cannot happen! The city of Rome, as a cultural center of the world deserves a better solution to the Valle issue. We strongly plea the Italian political authorities to look for a method which facilitates rather than repressing institutional and cultural experiments to run the commons.
We have very little time to save this experience, dozens of intellectuals from all over the world, from David Harvey to Stefano Rodotà, from Slavoj Zizek to Étienne Balibar, from Michael Hardt to Salvatore Settis to Ugo Mattei to representatives of prestigious European Museums, performing and contemporary arts centres, Foundations and cultural institutions are mobilizing to defend this experience with this international call.But now only a mobilization of citizens and institutions can save this cultural and political symbol!
The solutions to transform this innovative Foundation into a fully legal, recognized and working reality are there. It would suffice that the institutions sit together with citizens, artists, workers entertainment workers to experience a new participated way of managing public goods, providing spaces of freedom and self-determination.
To do this we will deliver directly to the Mayor of Rome Marino and the head of the culture department Marinelli thousands of signatures of Italian and European citizens, artists and intellectuals. ALL TOGETHER WE CAN CONVINCE THEM, SIGN NOW AND SHARE WITH EVERYONE!
(if you represent a cultural institution, an arts or research center, a foundation, an arts collective, a museum, etc. please send us your adhesion to the following e-mail address as well, specifying the organization / institution:firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sign the petition here.