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Dean Kenning: Statement of withdrawal from talk at FlatTimeHouse / Curator/Director’s Response (London, UK)
I was very pleased to be asked to take part in the event Proto-tools at FlatTimeHouse (16-17 Nov) described on the gallery website as ‘part-symposium, part-conversation, part-exhibition’. However I feel I must withdraw due to the non-payment of participants. This is not because I don’t partake in many artistic and teaching activities without being paid, which I do; it is because I believe an Arts Council England funded and otherwise supported arts organisation such as FlatTimeHouse has an obligation to pay all it’s artists and speakers. As I had proposed to speak on the question of art as a resource I feel this issue is relevant to the event.
Firstly, funded galleries and arts organisations should not presume that artists, writers, curators, etc. are either independently wealthy, or have stable academic positions to sustain them. Secondly, and more importantly, such non-payment encourages a reputation economy, which is rampant in the art world but deeply damaging to art. Artists, speakers and organisers of events, when they are not so well known and sought after, are supposed to be grateful to arts institutions for the opportunity to exhibit, perform, curate and speak, and to have their names listed on the institution’s website. Not only is their ‘esteem’ enhanced, but they may make connections (with the ‘right’ people) and thus initiate future possibilities to show work, to curate, write, etc.
The informal networking culture that operates at the heart of the art world’s reputation economy conspires against the ‘vulgar’ discussion of money (except as an abstract theoretical topic of discussion), and so silences those who, while feeling they should not turn down an opportunity, may feel unsupported, unfairly treated, or exploited by galleries which seek to increase their own reputational value by dedicating funding to international name artists, writers and curators. It is not a good career move to criticise those who hold, and potentially enable access to, power.
The policy of selective payment for those working at publicly funded galleries thus reinforces and reproduces art world hierarchies and exclusions, to the benefit of those at the top, through flattery (of power’s ‘generosity’), silence (at its iniquities) and competitive struggle for future visibility (where their should be solidarity and true collaboration). This is therefore a class issue, one which, lacking expression within the dominant system and it’s modes of operation, can become internalised, often painfully so, as personal failure.
FlatTimeHouse, built, supposedly, on the legacy of historical challenges to art’s exclusions, should understand how art as a social resource must begin with the equitable enabling of artistic, curatorial and theoretical production alongside the provision of platforms for visibility and discourse. How are we going to encourage a wider range of people to become artists or art workers if they are not going to get paid?
Regardless of the intentions of those involved, such an arrangement inevitably transforms the use of value of artistic encounter and discussion into the exchange value of art world status, as reputational credit replaces cash payment as the currency which will allow the ‘lucky’ few (the well-off and well-connected tend to be more lucky than others) to rise to the top of the pyramid – and only there unlock the big money.
Dean Kenning is an artist and writer based in London.
My name is Claire Louise Staunton and I am the Curator/Director of Flat Time House. This is an uncomfortable place in which to introduce myself, but I feel such an introduction is necessary since we have never met, spoken on the phone, nor even exchanged an email.
Had we communicated, I could have explained that the symposium of which you write was an externally organised public event. You were invited to participate because the organisers felt an urgent need for a forum in which artists and curators could openly interrogate ideas concerning the tools of art practice and the use value of art, and felt your voice would contribute to this discourse. The organisers/artists approached me to ask if FTHo could host this discussion since their former project space has closed due to a lack of funding and because they feel the intimacy and history of our house is conducive to the group discussion. I was happy to give them the space and time to do so without charge and without the constraints of larger and more inflexible institutions.
Had we communicated, I could have explained to you our funding structure wherein FTHo is neither a regularly funded organisation nor a National Portfolio Organisation. The Arts Council England funds some of our in-house public programming (when we always pay fees and/or production) but none of our overheads, salaries, externally organised events or the pretzels and orange juice that we served our guests over the weekend. The weekend’s symposium was not in any part funded by the Arts Council or any public funding body; rather I volunteered my time and offered our only asset, the house. Moreover, the house is under serious threat of closure (please see Art Newspaper July/Aug 2013 [ http://bit.ly/1f7I2Fl ] due to a lack of secure funding.
Had we communicated, we could have discussed, and no doubt found much agreement on the problem of faceless exploitative organisations in the art world. However, it is my firm conviction that neither we at FTHo, nor the artist-run group that programmed the event, are such organisations. That you did not take the trouble to find out before launching a public attack on us I find deeply upsetting. Your anger comes from real and shared concerns, but your aim is off. We are a very small team of individuals working to a challenging budget who care very deeply about our flexible, autonomous institute, and all of the artists that we invite to work with us.Perhaps the biggest shame is that you missed a really interesting and intimate exchange of ideas between a group of dedicated artists and curators who met on equal terms.
Had we communicated, you might have been happy to come.
Yours sincerely,Claire Louise Staunton
Making Social Realities With Books is a series, of lectures and workshops, that explores the idea of how books—libraries, archives, publishing, and distribution—are used to create distinct social realities, whether it is in small communities, or entire movements within art practices and related activities.
About Art Leaks:
ArtLeaking is an international collective platform that exposes common-currency practices of slander, intimidation and blackmail, instances of mistreatment related to cultural labor, repression channeled through dishonest management or blatant censorship. ArtLeaks aims to create a strong network of art system whistleblowers—through which we support and protect each other in critical moments as much as possible.
In this workshop, we will look at selected case studies that cultural producers have organized in order to improve not only their living conditions, but the conditions of the community around them, and society as a whole. Moreover, we will problematize the classification of cultural activity as labor, test the viability of “cultural producer” or “cultural worker” as a collective marker of subjectivity, and look at culture as a field of, but not limited to, labor practices that effect the public sphere.
Focusing on the historical relationship between art, organized labor and social movements in the age of capitalist globalization, we will decipher these structures and the connections between them from the point of view of culture, politics, economics, and history, while examining concrete examples of local struggles, alternative models and international networks.
Moreover, participants will be encouraged throughout the workshops to imagine their own alternative models, list of demands, manifestos, ways of collectivizing artistic labor, new institutional and educational models.
Corina L Apostol is Ph.D candidate in the Department of Art History at Rutgers University – New Brunswick. She is also a curatorial research fellow of the Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union at the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum. She is the co-founder of Art Leaks, an organization that fights for artists’ rights in the workforce, and co-editor of the ArtLeaks Gazette.
This series was co-organized with Brett Alton Bloom/ Det Jyske Kunstakademi/The Jutland Art Academy and rum46. Together we have helped organize a loose network of artist book publishers and supporters in Aarhus called RoPoPu (Room for Potential Publishing) that can be found here: www.ropopu.dk.
Parasites and Prophets
International Conference on Artistic Production, Organization and Struggle
25-26 October 2013, 5-9 pm
tranzit.ro/ Bucureşti, Str. Gazelei nr. 44, sector 4
Participants: Tatiana Baskakova, Simona Dumitriu, Palo Fabuš, Joanna Figiel, Fokus Grupa (Iva Kovač, Elvis Krstulović), Vladan Jeremić, Marko Miletić, Márton Pacsika, The Presidential Candidate (Florin Flueraş, Ion Dumitrescu), Jiří Ptáček, Ştefan Tiron, Vesna Vuković
Graphic intervention: Zampa di Leone
Moderators: Corina L. Apostol, Vjera Borozan, Raluca Voinea
- the State instrumentalizes them;
- the corporations employ them to whitewash their image;
- galleries and collectors look at them as at a hen with golden eggs;
- the wider public expects to be entertained by them;
- the activists wait their helping hand in saving the world;
- the cultural institutions legitimize their very existence through them, under the more noble mission of emancipation and education;
- their colleagues rely on their inexhaustible humour, intelligence and creativity;
- they themselves are most often struggling for survival.
We are using the word “artist” here in a very general sense; “cultural worker” is lately replacing the much-tainted-by-Romantic-mythology “artist”. To change the word is not enough though. To change the perception upon them as a group which contributes to society, that is a task which first needs self-awareness. Then it needs organization and affirmation.
The conference “Parasites and Prophets” aims to initiate a dialogue among the cultural workers community in Bucharest and their peers from Europe, mostly in the former East, about precarious working conditions, unpaid project work, economic situation and incomes, public funding, collaboration, solidarity, labour struggles. How to fight against precarious conditions in contexts where labour struggles are more difficult to localize? Which tactics and models of organizing already exist? How can they be enacted and expanded collectively and publicly?
The public programme of the two days, Friday, 25th and Saturday, 26th of October 2013, from 5 in the afternoon till 9 in the evening comprises short presentations by the participants, discussions, references to the local context of Bucharest and to the artists’ struggle in a wider climate of social unrest and accumulated political demands, collective drawing, informal exchange and optimistic projections for the near future.
More information on the event and participants you can find on the websites: http://ro.tranzit.org/ and http://art-leaks.org/ or by emailing at: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone: 0728503012.
FB Event RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/363090490491833/
Corina L Apostol is Ph.D candidate in the Department of Art History at Rutgers University – New Brunswick. She is also a curatorial research fellow of the Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union at the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum. She is the co-founder of Art Leaks and co-editor of the ArtLeaks Gazette.
Tatiana Baskakova is a London-based Russian artist working experimentally on the possibility of political critique in contemporary art practice, with emphasis on context and performance as a key but not the only media. In 2011 she performed Invigilator’s Revolt while working as a gallery assistant in a major Moscow art institution, trying to organise a trade union for gallery workers and being fired for “sabotage” as a part of it. In 2013 she made a celebratory lecture about V.I. Lenin in the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development in London. Baskakova takes part in anonymous institutional critique groups that organise and campaign against unpaid gallery labour. She received her BA in Art Practice and MA in Art and Politics from Goldsmiths College University of London.
Vjera Borozan graduated from the department of art history at the Philosophical faculty of Charles University in Prague. She has taught at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Brno and at the Academy of Arts, Design and Architecture in Prague. Until recently she collaborated with the initiative tranzit.cz. She is the director of the online platform Artyčok.TV and an independent curator active in many other areas of the contemporary art scene. Lives in Prague.
Simona Dumitriu is a curator, teacher and artist. She also researches on Romanian contemporary art history. She is the initiator (in 2011) and member of Platforma space in Bucharest – a space used for exhibitions and workshops, but also as a meeting place for interdisciplinary, social or political initiatives. Between 2009-20013 she taught at the National University of the Arts in Bucharest. In her practice and research, she in interested in: mixing and working at the intersection between curatorial, teaching and artistic practice; archival science and theory as applied to visual arts; discourse analysis and research based performances; methodologies of art education and education as art; queer theory applied to contemporary art, to feminism and to other political issues.
Palo Fabuš received his Bc in applied informatics at the Faculty of Informatics, Masaryk University in Brno, and MA from the Department of Media Studies and Journalism FSS MU Brno, currently a PhD candidate at Sociology Dept. of Charles University in Prague. In 2004-2005 he was the editor-in-chief of IM6 magazine. Curator of Zoom festival (2005, 2006). He worked as an editor of Literární noviny (2005-2008). Co-founded Jlbjlt in 2007. He taught Social Media course at the Department of Media Studies and Journalism FSS MU Brno and gave guest lectures at FF MU Brno, FaVU Brno, FIT VUT Brno, FAMU Prague, and AVU Prague. Since 2009 Palo is an editor of Umělec magazine; since 2011 its editor-in-chief.
Joanna Figiel is a doctoral candidate at the Centre for Culture Policy Management, City University London and Research Associate in the Hybrid Publishing Lab, at the Innovations-Inkubator Leuphana Universitat. Her research focuses on labour issues, precarity and policy within the creative and cultural sectors. She completed her MA at the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths. She is a member of the editorial collective of ephemera.
Fokus Grupa (Iva Kovač, Elvis Krstulović) is an artist collective based in Rijeka and Zagreb, Croatia. Their practice is collaborative and interdisciplinary, and they work across art, design and curating. Their artistic strategies take political shape, without becoming a representational form of ‘political art’. Fokus Grupa concentrate on the relations between art and its public manifestations, in terms of working culture, aesthetics, and social and economic exchange values. Their work investigates the inherent power structures of the art-system. To this effect, they explore its economic, spatial and legal implementations. The collective tries to expand the boundaries of their artwork, using printed matter, films and installations, works on paper, discussions, workshops and texts.
Rena Rädle & Vladan Jeremić are a Belgrade-based artists, cultural and political workers making interventions and installations that combine documentary video, photography and drawing. They have been collaborating together since 2002. The political economy of the city and social struggles in the context of production of urban space are in the focus of their research. Their projects “The Housing Question”, ”Under the Bridge”, “The Housing Agenda”, “On Use Value of Art”, ”Belleville” and “Gazela” support movements of Roma precarious workers and migrant workers in Europe in order to consolidate potentialities for social transformation. Their recent exhibitions include: Self Made Urbanism Rome, NGBK, Berlin; Places of memory – Fields of vision, Contemporary Art Center of Thessaloniki; O2, Red House, Sofia; Absolute Democracy, Rotor, Graz; Oktobar XXX, 15th Pančevo Biennial, Serbia; The Housing Agenda, Cable Factory Gallery, Helsinki and La mason Folie Wazemmes, Lille; Moving Forwards, Counting Backwards, MUAC, Mexico City. Jeremić & Rädle were initiators of the project Call the Witness – 2nd Roma Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennial and are co-authors of artworks within the collective Chto Delat? Their artworks are in the collection of the Thessaloniki State Museum of Contemporary Art, MUDAM, Luxemburg, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven and Museum Reina Sofia, Madrid.
Marko Miletić is a cultural worker, and a member of the Kontekst collective. He is a student at the Department of Art History of the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade. From 2007 to 2010, he worked on the Kontekst gallery project; Since 2011 he has been part of the editorial board of the Lice Ulice magazine. In his work, he addresses the formation of space for critical and political action in the field of contemporary art and culture by discussing questions of cultural politics and production as well as researching links between cultural production and urbanism. His recent projects include among others: Encounters – Future of European Integrations, Political Economy and Culture: Left Critical Perspectives, a three-day conference, 25 – 29. September, 2012, Belgrade/Serbia; The importance of the student protests in the 1930ies in Yugoslavia, audio-visual installation in public space, upcoming, October 2012, Urbanfestival, Zagreb/Croatia; Kontekst, struggle for autonomous space, 2011 – ongoing; From Creative Work to Creative City, a two-day seminar in the frame of 52nd October Salon, November 2011.
Márton Pacsika is an emerging curator based in Budapest. He was a co-founder and curator of the Demo Gallery, Budapest (2010-2012), and is currently a board member of the Studio of Young Artist’s Association and of the Labor Gallery committee. His main fields of research include twentieth-century Hungarian Progressivism, cultural policy, and socially engaged art.
Jiří Ptáček lives in Prague and is an independent curator and art critic. Throughout his career he has collaborated with several galleries and art magazines working in the field of contemporary art. He worked as an editor-in-chief of Umelec magazine, international art magazine published in Prague (2003-2006), curator of NoD Gallery in Prague (2007-2008) and Gallery of Young Artists in Brno (2011). Between 2009 and 2011 he acted as a pedagogue of Video Studio at Faculty of Fine Arts in Brno. In summer 2012 he became a new curator of Fotograf Gallery in Prague. He is one of constituent members of Ateliér Бања Лука, an international iniciative of young artist and curators focusing on models of a collaborative practice. Last two years he also runs a flat “community gallery” Zutý Mánes in České Budějovice (together with an artist Michal Vavrečka).
The Romanian Presidential Candidacy (Florin Flueraş, Ion Dumitrescu) is based in Bucharest, the main initiators being Ion Dumitrescu and Florin Flueraș. Part of Postspectacle practice, with campaign rallies already having been held in Bucharest, Vienna, Oslo, Sao Paolo.
Ştefan Tiron Performance/Cultural Hacking: Preliminary report on the past and present use of psychotronic weapons of mass destruction in Romania (with Alexandra Croitoru) 2007, selling of Surveillance Technology from the East to the West at Sigint 2009 in Koln, Germany, Presidential Candidacy National Day at Afi Palace Bucharest 2011, Brancusiologist at Gate of Kiss (colab with Manuel Pelmus and Brynjar Åbel Bandlien) CNDB/Bucharest, Chez Bushwick/NY, Oslo/ Dramatikkens Hus, undercover Fundraising for Romanian Presidential Candidature at dOCUMENTA 13 in 2012 (with Ion Dumitrescu). Since 2013, member of the new Comission for Public Monuments at the Romanian ministry of culture. Curatorial practice: In 2005 invites members from different peer2peer subcultures to curate several events at the Galeria Nouă Bucharest (otaku, industrial/noise/distro, dark deviant art , horror buffs, gaming/LAN party/dc++). Between 2006-2013 he co-organized a Cozzzmonautica series of sleep-over events about DIY Space Exploration, space art, Cosmology&ideology, science friction, sound art in Arad Natural History Museum, Oradea University, WestGermany/Berlin, private homes and galleries. Current 2013 edition Timișoara/Simultan/TamTam “New Jobs in Outer Space.” TW: @TironStefan
Vesna Vuković is a translator, curator and researcher, member of Zagreb-based collective [BLOK], associate and periodic lecturer at the Academy of Fine Arts Zagreb. She writes and publishes here and there.Vukovic’s work is dedicated to the art in public space and its relation to the politics of public domain. Her curatorial practice explores in-between-spaces of generation, production and representation of contemporary art, as a form of expanded exhibition, as well as spatial organization of the public sphere. Projects and exhibitions, as curator: UrbanFestival, an annual series of interventions in public spaces, Zagreb, 2001–2009; If you meet them on the streets, join…, series of interventions in public spaces, Zagreb, 2008; Money etc, Gallery Miroslav Kraljević, Zagreb, 2010. Publications, as editor: Save as…city.doc, Frakcija magazine 30/31, 2004; Politics of Space, UrbanFestival catalogue, 2006; Operation:City – manual for living in neo-liberal reality, 2008, How we regret…, UrbanFestival catalogue, 2008, Removed from the Crowd. Unexpected Encounters I, 2011.
Raluca Voinea is an art critic and curator based in Bucharest. She is co-director of the tranzit.ro Association, founded in 2012 together with Matei Bejenaru, Livia Pancu, Lia Perjovschi and Attila Tordai-S., an institution which is part of the tranzit.org network. She is also involved in several other curatorial or editorial collectives from Romania (E-cart.ro, IDEA arts + society, Long April). With E-cart.ro she has developed since 2009 a Department for Art in Public Space, a programme of discursive events and artistic productions. She was one of the four curators (with Markus Bader, Oliver Baurhenn and Kuba Szreder) of the international project The KNOT. Linking the existing with the imaginary, developed in the public space of Berlin, Warsaw and Bucharest in 2010.
The collective Zampa di Leone (founded 2000) focuses its activities and its comic narrative against right wing and liberal political practice and contemporary art production that takes a vassal’s role in the society of the crisis of the liberal capitalist culture. Mapping the art scenes all around the world and particularly in Serbia, Germany, Croatia and Turkey, and deconstructing the controversial gentrification processes, Zampa digs its claws into the wonderland of contemporary culture. For more than 10 years Zampa di Leone provides awesome opportunity for everyone to join Zampa di Leone World Movement and to ZAMP IT UP with crazy beats from the synchronized peripheries. A number of critical actions, interruptions and sabotages of exhibition openings at large art events (like the Istanbul Biennial 2009 for example or many artistic actions against non-transparency of the management of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade) and other museums were carried out by the collective Zampa di Leone from 2000 until today.
Organizational team: Corina L. Apostol, Raluca Voinea, Edi Constantin, Angelica Iacob
Special thanks to: Adriana & Silviu Apostol, Simion Constantin & team, Misa Janeckova, Cristian Voinea, Biroul Melodramatic, Vlad Morariu,Dmitry Vilensky, Société Réaliste
Conference organized by tranzit.ro/ Bucureşti & ArtLeaks in the frame of the project “Close-up: creative tools for new criticism.”
With the support of the Culture programme of the European Union
Partners: Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, Artycok.tv, Czech Centre Bucharest
Main partner of tranzit.ro: ERSTE Foundation
Vă invităm la conferința internațională
PARAZIŢI ȘI PROFEȚI
Producție culturală, organizare şi luptă
25-26 Octombrie 2013, orele 17:00-21:00
tranzit.ro/ Bucureşti, Str. Gazelei nr. 44, sector 4
Participanți: Tatiana Baskakova, Simona Dumitriu, Palo Fabuš, Joanna Figiel, Fokus Grupa (Iva Kovač, Elvis Krstulović), Vladan Jeremić, Marko Miletić, Márton Pacsika, Candidatul la Preşedinție (Florin Flueraş, Ion Dumitrescu), Jiří Ptáček, Ştefan Tiron, Vesna Vuković
Intervenții grafice: Zampa di Leone
Moderatoare: Corina L. Apostol, Vjera Borozan, Raluca Voinea
Situația artiştilor astăzi:
- statul îi instrumentalizează;
- corporațiile se folosesc de ei ca să-şi spele imaginea publică;
- galeriile şi colecționarii se uită la ei ca la găina cu ouăle de aur;
- publicul asteaptă să fie delectați de ei;
- activiştii aşteaptă ajutorul lor pentru a salva lumea;
- instituțiile culturale îşi legitimeaza existența prin ei sub pretextul nobilei misiuni de emancipare şi educare;
- colegii lor se bazează pe umorul, inteligența şi creativitatea lor;
- în cele mai multe cazuri ei înşişi se luptă pentru supraviețuire.
Cuvântul „artist” este folosit aici într-un sens foarte general; termenul de „muncitor cultural” a început în ultimul timp să-l înlocuiască pe cel de „artist”, mult prea alienat de mitologia romantică. Însă nu este suficient să schimbam terminologia. Ceea ce trebuie să schimbăm este percepția publică asupra lor, ca un grup care contribuie la dezvoltarea societății – o sarcină care necesită conștiință de sine, organizare şi afirmare.
Conferința “Paraziți și profeți” are ca scop inițierea unui dialog între muncitorii culturali din Bucureşti şi colegii lor din Europa, în special din Europa de Est, despre condiții de lucru precare, muncă artistică neplătită, condiții economice şi venituri, fonduri publice, colaborare, solidaritate, luptă. Cum putem lupta împotriva condițiilor de viață precare în contexte în care aceste eforturi sunt greu de localizat? Ce tactici şi modele de organizare există deja? Cum pot fi ele reactivate şi dezvoltate atât colectiv cât şi public?
Programul public al celor două zile, vineri, 25 şi sâmbătă 26 octombrie de la 17:00 la 21:00 va cuprinde prezentări ale participanților, dezbateri, trimiteri la contextul local din Bucuresti şi la luptele artistice în contextul mai larg al mişcărilor sociale şi al cerințelor politice acumulate, desen colectiv, discuții informale şi predicții optimiste pentru viitorul apropriat.
Pentru mai multe informații despre eveniment şi participanți puteți consulta site-urile http://ro.tranzit.org/ şi http://art-leaks.org/ sau prin email:
email@example.com sau firstname.lastname@example.org, sau la telefon 0728503012.
Organizare: Corina L. Apostol, Raluca Voinea, Edi Constantin, Angelica Iacob
Mulțumiri: Adriana & Silviu Apostol, Simion Constantin & team, Misa Janeckova, Cristian Voinea, Bureau for Melodramatic Research, Vlad Morariu, Dmitry Vilensky, Société Réaliste
Conferință organizată de tranzit.ro/ Bucureşti şi ArtLeaks în cadrul proiectului
“Close-up: creative tools for new criticism.”
Cu sprijinul programului Cultura al Uniunii Europene
Parteneri: Academia de Arte Frumoase din Praga, Artycok.tv, Centrul Ceh Bucureşti
Partener principal al tranzit.ro: ERSTE Foundation
October 16, 2013
Dear Suzanne Lacy, Nato Thompson, Catherine J. Morris and volunteers and staff of Brooklyn Museum and Creative Time,
We are artists, scholars, activists, feminists, wage laborers and mothers performing in Between the Door and the Street. While there are many merits to this piece, and we are hopeful about the public conversations we will engage in, we raise issue with the lack of payment for performers and the lack of childcare options for participating mothers.
As feminists, we believe not paying the 350 women participants perpetuates labor inequality, devalues women’s time and assumes that all women in this piece are financially able to volunteer time, energy, emotional and political content for free. We believe that assuming and relying on free/unpaid contributions of our time for your project continues to perpetuate a standard of capitalist economy that systematically underpays and disenfranchises us, and devalues our time, our bodies, our energies, our histories and our intellects through tactics such as “professionalization.” “volunteerism” and more. This is a mainstream standard that has never worked for us, and does not serve us now. A culture of “volunteerism” assumes that all participants have the means to volunteer and perpetuates the very real reality of poverty and scarcity for many artists and activists. Compensating us would address, in a small but important way, the material realities and economic oppressions impacting many of our lives.
As women who come from different socio-economic and racial backgrounds, we understand that not all activism can or should be paid. However, we do think that the arts community has an imperative to try harder to set a better standard of compensating women for their labor, and for practicing solidarity economies that support women’s participation instead of exploiting them. Additionally, we feel that poor public framing of the unpaid “volunteerism” and time commitments required for Between the Door and the Street create a high barrier to entry. Most of the women participating are non-profit professionals, or women attached to high-visibility non-profits discussing the prompt questions of: “who will take care of the nannies children?” but can the “nanny” bring her own children to this event and participate in an equitable manner, given that she will not be paid, and there will be no childcare? We think not.
We are familiar with, and respectful of Suzanne Lacy’s art, and it is in the spirit of compassionate solidarity and loving community engagement,that we are bringing up these issues. We believe that art and artists benefit from honest critique and that a piece such as Between the Door and the Street that aims to open up space to talk about feminism and women’s work must take on these issues.
Leina Bocar ( performer )
Anonymous performer 1
Anonymous participant 2
* We are in no way attempting to speak on behalf of the other women performers or for their organizations. We are respectfully signing as individuals.
Supporters, signing in solidarity,
1. W.A.G.E. (Working Artists in the Greater Economy)
2. Laurel Ptak, curator, member of Arts and Labor
3. Marisa Holmes, activist, filmmaker, Occupy Wall Street
4. Andrew Ross, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University
5. Julieta Salgado, activist, sociologist, Brooklyn College
6. Saar Shemesh, artist, activist, Free Cooper Union
7. Sarah Quinter, artist, activist, Occupy Sandy
8. Zoltan Gluck, Doctoral student, Anthropology, CUNY Graduate Center
9. Kressent Pottenger, activist, Murphy Institute for Labor studies, CUNY, member of Arts and Labor
10. Mike Andrews, Occupy Wall Street, Strike Debt, Copy Editor e-flux
11. Katherine Ramos, activist, mother
12. Noah Fischer, artist, activist
13. Samantha Demby, social justice activist
14. Matthew Tinker, activist, All in the Red
15. George Caffentzis, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, University of Southern Maine
16. Peter Walsh, Intern Labor Rights, member of Arts and Labor
17. Hector Agredano, CCNY Instructor
18. Elena Schowlsky-Fitch, Public health educator, community activist, Occupy Sunset Park, mother
19. Rachel Higgins, artist, activist, member of Arts and Labor
20. Steve McFarland, Doctoral Candidate, CUNY Graduate Center
21. Sarah Newgaard, CUNY Hunter College alumni
22. Darrah Martin, Free University, Postdoctoral Fellow, Columbia University
23. Lauren Suchman
24. Igor Rodriguez Calderon, Doctoral Candidate, Cultural Anthropology, CUNY Graduate Center
25. Jerry Goralnick, activist, actor, War Resisters League, The Living Theatre, Strike Debt
26. Emily Baierl
27. Rob Robinson, housing justice activist, Take Back the Land, NESRI
28. Helen Panagiotopoulous, CUNY Graduate Center
29. Brad Young, Doctoral student, Political Science, CUNY Graduate Center
30. Amy Starecheski, Columbia University
31. Susan Jahod, professor at UMASS Amherst , Rethinking Marxism Collective
Creative Time and the Brooklyn Museum appreciate the concerns voiced in the open letter. In fact, Suzanne Lacy’s Between the Door and the Street deals with issues of gender justice, including labor, head on. The participants are social activists who were invited to use the project as a platform to advance their work and strengthen their networks through conversations that give voice to restaurant workers, nannies, reproductive-rights proponents, and numerous others. Like much political activism, this project is built upon volunteerism. And as with so much of Lacy’s work, its goal is to promote the cause of social justice.
Creative Time and the Museum have long histories of supporting artists and providing forums for open dialogue around these and other issues. We look forward to continuing the conversation.
Creative Time and the Brooklyn Museum take seriously the issue of paying artists for their labor. Click here to see Creative Time and the Brooklyn Museum’s response to the open letter, and click here to go to Nato Thompson’s Facebook page, where the issue is being actively discussed.
Sue Yellin: My thoughts on “between the Door and the Street” and volunteerism
I volunteered for this project initially because someone in our theater group had been hired to produce it.. sound idea, bringing all these people together, letting the public in to interact ,why not give a few hours to the cause…after a flurry of instruction emails and reminders of the briefing taking place the week before the event, I thought about all the work which had already gone on. Last Saturday at our briefing I thought “wow what a lot of staff, papers, instructions” but I was still in the game. I reacted when one of the organizers said that they had no money for day-care for the women who were participating(gee maybe if they took the money which was being spent on stuff, paper, badges, etc they could hire some day care people..) On Sunday I was told by the producer that she was told they’d run out of money and could she volunteer her time, which she rightly turned down..
Now to the big day.. a lot of down time, where we sat or stood around doing nothing, getting the same briefings, listening to the same staff which included volunteer coordinators, AD’s, asst AD’s, stoop directors, stoop guardians, way-finders … WHAT A LOT OF PEOPLE! my stoop had 4 participants instead of the 10 which was mentioned in our paperwork.. they started a conversation which was aided by a talking talisman,so I really had nothing to do but stand there and every 10 minutes or so tell the directors and AD’s that all was well. When the street was opened up that’s when the problems came up. the people from the street could not hear what the stoop people were saying, the people from the street did not know what group they were listening to. they wandered around looking very lost.(At least a hundred people lifted my badge to see what group I was guarding).there were signs up when we first arrived but they were taken down for the sake of “ spontaneity”..
I left as soon as the socializing began. I’d been on my feet for 6 hours and frankly was feeling very used…I remember wondering who got paid for this and who didn’t by the article above and my comments I think we can say who didn’t..
In my defense I will say that I’m retired and having been an activist all my life want to keep my foot in, however, we are sometimes too quick to jump into things without seeing the bigger picture.. How many care-givers could have been hired with the money which went to buy the hundreds of YELLOW SCARVES???
My business card reads “professional volunteer” and I try to work at things where I can make a difference. Having said that, I realize that being a volunteer at the Brooklyn Visitors Center two days a week helps visitors to Brooklyn navigate around and would not exist without the group of volunteers who man it. We must learn to distinguish from helping for the greater good and helping a few to make money on the backs of others..
My helping serve food at a theater production or taking signatures for a political candidate I am supporting is one thing. Being exploited in any way, shape, form is another.I’d love to know how others feel about this.
I am sincerely; sue yelling (professional volunteer,stoop guardian )