What are the solutions for fairer working conditions?

In line with reports Fair enough? published after a meeting in April 2022 with 173 professionals, International Network for Contemporary Performing Arts (IETM) continue to reflect equity and working conditions in the performing arts. The introduction of more just and sustainable practices that require “letting go of many old ways”, the network wants to contribute develop alternatives to the system that currently governs the modality of the artwork. To that end, he invited three academics – who have in common that they are also involved in art practice – to convey their analysis of the roots of artists’ vulnerability and present concrete principles or ideas for a more sustainable future. . Their contributions are collected in a publication entitled Which side are you on? Ideas for Achieving Fair Working Conditions in Art.

Associate Professor in the Arts Management Program at the University at Buffalo, Katja Praznik put it at the heart of the matter recognition of works of art as real works. As long as this does not intervene, artists will not be able to claim a proper and legitimate income. “Socially dominant attitudes, he wrote, mean to regard what artists do not as works but as creations, the result of artistic talent or genius. This belief makes work invisible, resulting economic and social devaluation it makes inadequate remuneration acceptable. The image of the artist practicing his art out of love or out of a need for personal expression persists, the academician notes. In addition, the terms of the implementation of activities (freely), maintain the artists in isolation which prevents them from fighting effectively for their rights. Therefore, Katja Praznik advocates for collective organizations and radical action. “I believe that we need a unified and organized union of the masses of arts workers who, with their mass of bodies and voices, are capable of emptying the stages of your theatres, the walls and halls of your museums and galleries empty, your silent radios and loudspeakers, your cinemas dark, your empty shelves and your dull, smooth walks,” he said.

Having written extensively on the fragmentation of labor and its relation to precarious working conditions in the performing arts, philosopher, playwright, and performance theorist Bojana Kunst, focus here on difficulties related to the notion of “project”. Most artists are forced to think of their work as an endless series of projects, often working on several projects at once and always preparing for the next project. If it is difficult to provide an alternative to this situation, Bojana Kunst still urges the organization cultural policy no longer centered on a single work or project, but support the creation of sustainable and sustainable infrastructure. This means ending the constant demand for new production, increased productivity and growth. A must has been highlighted in the report Fair enough?.

More singular is the third point of view brought by Hans Abbing, creator in the visual arts sector, economist and professor emeritus in the sociology of arts at the University of Amsterdam. It really fits opposite to the ideal drawn previously by his peers, namely allowing the artist to devote all of his time to training and building a long career. To justify his analysis, Hans Abbing relies on an observation: the emergence of a category of artists, who qualify as the “new bohemian”, who accept the risks of artistic endeavor and “celebrate the do-it-yourself culture”. The unsustainable nature of their activity is of little concern to them, precisely because they do not always aim for full-time or lifelong artistic practice. Furthermore, according to Hans Abbing, many young artists are currently developing “hybrid artistic practice”. “They occupy, he explained, a second occupation in which they collaborate with non-artists, while making an artistic contribution to the non-artistic product. This tendency occurs in context the blurring of the boundaries between art and non-art, between art and creative practice, between artists who are considered professionals and others who are considered amateurs, and between recognized arts institutions and online platforms that promote creative work and reach the public. “What if we accepted that many careers in the arts are unsustainable, and this is not the end of the world? said Hans Abbing.

in conclusion, Which side are you on? Ideas for Achieving Fair Working Conditions in Art show that call for fair practices and more sustainable working conditions, as well as the resulting initiatives (experiments with artist salaries or universal income schemes), of course necessary but not sufficient. Finding new ways to counteract the fragmentation of artists’ work, to validate full-time employment and long-term careers thus presupposes question the foundations of certain ecosystems Dramatic arts. To also extract oneself from self-segregation by associating in this approach all citizens who aspire to a more just, diverse, ecological and sustainable society.

An outline of this publication was presented on 25 January 2023 at the Innovate Cultural Policy event organized by IETM. Replay available here.

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