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L’Internationale wishes to state its support for the right to show the work Cajita de fósforos (2005) by the artists group Mujeres Públicas in the context of the exhibition Really Useful Knowledge. Given a series of complaints issued by various groups about this work in the last days, we feel it is important to take a position in relation to their attacks. To claim that the work Cajita de fósforos (Little Box of Matches) and, by extension, the Museo Reina Sofía, incites the burning of churches is to simplify the meaning and context of the work. Like the many other pieces that make up the exhibition Really Useful Knowledge, Cajita de fósforos alludes to the transformative and emancipatory power of something small and modest (such as a box of matches) when understood within a network of subtle historical references. L’Internationale believes that a democratic society should expect and require that its public museums are nor merely vehicles for the legitimisation and reproduction of established discourses and views of past and present power.
The fact is that the right to be present and to represent has to be argued for in the art field and its institutions, despite the modern assumption of aesthetic autonomy. That is why contemporary institutions undertake the unavoidable mission of being open to serious, disruptive arguments that refute the existing symbolic order. This is an imperative to which we commit ourselves, even if it means shaking our very foundations and exposing our contradictions.
The public museum is neither a place for staging harmony in a world that is fraught with conflicts, nor a site for disrespectfully shocking citizens for the sake of avant-garde radicalism. We believe the museum should be a space where questions are posed to visitors that are equally subjects with a critical capacity, open to proposals in the public domain. The best museums should be places where knowledge replaces passive admiration, where judgement displaces prejudice and where agency takes the place of impotence. As a result, society as a whole should vindicate and defend the museum as an essential place where democratic societies not only debate the content of expression – for that purpose there are also other suitable forums – but also the conditions that make this expression possible at all.
The work of the Argentinian collective Mujeres públicas, which corresponds to a political struggle at a specific time and in a specific place, forms part of an in-depth exercise of reflection, through learning and collective practice, on the will and capacity of societies to go beyond the structures that confine them. At stake in this attack on the museum and its exhibition are therefore not only the traditional right of freedom of artistic expression and the exceptional nature of the museum as a space where anything is possible. There is also a threat to the more crucial capacity of maintaining a society that can confront and critically question problematic conditions in its immediate and widest environment through its own public institutions.
Please sign and share this letter of support for Manuel Borja-Villel, Director of Museo Reina Sofía, and the team at the Museo Reina Sofía.
Support Manuel Borja-Villel, Director of Museo Reina Sofía, and the team at the Museo Reina Sofía in their opposition to the attempted censorship of a work of art in the exhibition “Really Useful Knowledge” (Madrid, Spain)
CIMAM wishes to express its support to Manuel Borja-Villel, Director of Museo Reina Sofía (MNCARS), Madrid, and the entire team at the Museum in their negative to censure a work of art* presented within the exhibition Really Useful Knowledge [curated by WHW (What, How and for Whom)]. Religious groups are pressuring the Spanish Ministry of Culture to censure this exhibition. CIMAM is against such pressures on any cultural institution dedicated to promoting the principles of artistic expression and freedom.
The exhibition endeavors to position the notion of critical pedagogy as a crucial element in collective struggles, and explore the tension between individual and social emancipation through education with examples that are both historical and current, and their relation to organizational forms capable of leading unified resistance to the reproduction of capital.
The programming of art institutions is done for the construction of a civil and public space of debate and of a critical discussion around the experiences we share. Art institutions are for freedom, respect and debate; never for repression, violence nor censorship.
CIMAM wishes to encourage debate and civilized exchange of ideas and wants to express the deep concern for the turn of the actions against the freedom of artistic expressions and of the values of dialogue defended by the Museo Reina Sofía (MNCARS).
CIMAM has initiated a petition addressed to the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports, to support Manuel Borja-Villel, director of Museo Reina Sofía (MNCARS) and the entire team involved in this exhibition.
Please SIGN and share!
(*) Mujeres Públicas’s “Cajita de fósforos” (2005) consists of two matchboxes depicting, on one side, a burning church building, and on the other, the slogan: “The only church that illuminates is one which burns. Contribute!” (La única iglesia que ilumina es la que arde. ¡Contribuya!). The presentation of the piece by Mujeres Públicas, an Argentine feminist collective, was equated by one religious organization to a use of public funds by the state museum to “insult Christians.”
A group of artists and cultural workers called the October Salon Art Community, and the Belgrade Cultural Centre (KCB), organizer of the October Salon (OS), object to the manner in which the Belgrade city government decided to change OS into a biennial exhibition, instead of keeping the annual exhibition tradition as it has been for more than 5 decades.
(from: http://www.seecult.org/vest/kcb-autokratska-odluka-o-os )
KCB started an on-line petition against this violent decision. Please support their struggle and sign the petition here:
In an open letter, the October Salon Art Community is inviting local and international artists and cultural workers to protest against this act in order to stop it. Here is their letter:
Stop the October Salon “Massacre!”We, cultural workers and artists who built and created for years the artistic program in Belgrade – the October Art Salon, are inviting all local, regional and international participants of the October Salon and the wider international art community to stand up against the attack on Salon and and its existence.We must fight back against cuts!The October Salon is not a biennial exhibition!The October Salon was held annually for more than five decades – it is a unique exhibition of art and culture that has its roots in the socialist reception of the European modernism.The brutal annihilation of the unique space for art production in Belgrade, Serbia, wrongly attributed to the more nicely reformist mantra “austerity measures”, are recognizable unjust mechanisms, just in favor of few individuals and against public good for all the citizens in Serbia.The October Salon is a public good.We demand that the October Salon remains what it always was – a manifestation of the recent local, regional and international art production that takes place annually.We ask the Belgrade city government to suspend immediately the decision of seizing the Salon.Culture cannot be eradicated with arrogance and blind cuts!Belgrade, 29th of October 2014.October Salon Art Community
About / From the page of the October Salon:
The October Art Salon is a representative event featuring actual tendencies in the domain of visual arts, founded under the auspices of the City of Belgrade. It was established in 1960 as an exhibition of the best works in the sphere of fine arts. In 1967 it became an important review of the current trends in applied arts, too. Owing to its tradition of more then four decades, the October Salon represents an important segment in the study of the modern Serbian art of the second half of the 20th century. The Salon has become a point of reference of Serbian culture, a representative review of creators in the broad sphere of visual arts and a great exhibition of authors whose selectors are prominent experts in this area. In the course of its history, the Salon has changed its concept and organisational forms, but it has remained a strong challenge to creative consciousness.The Council of the Salon makes decisions on its concept. This Council consists of renowned experts in the sphere of visual arts (art historians, art critics and artists), appointed by the City of Belgrade. The Council selects the international Jury that gives three equal awards for the best art works exhibited at the Salon. An art director, who suggests a concept of the Salon, was appointed since 2001.
Curators of the recent October Salons were: Nicolaus Schafhausen and Vanessa Joan Müller, Branislav Dimitrijević and Mika Hannula, Galit Eilat and Alenka Gregorič, Johan Pousette and Celia Prado, Darka Radosavljević, etc..
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.