Arts and Labor Discussion Meeting, 1/8/13
Attending: AB, CT, LW, BW, GR
Suggested topics: relationship between community organizing and labor organizing; “class misidentification”; questions about panel last night/ thursday’s panel
GR- thought the broadness was interesting, thought is would be more specific to artists
CT- wished it were more specific to the artworld. Struggled to apply broader labor issues to struggles for artists
LW- thinking about how workplace organizing could apply to artists
CT- i am an art assistant for example but also an artist. as artist also consider own art as labor. Still feel skeptical about organizing artists using their workplace as the starting
point for organizing artists. Artists work as waiters, etc. not just within the art world.
AB- domestic workers speaker was great. Been feeling that artists should identify as
artworkers. It was interesting to hear Joyce and the taxi driver both identifying as artists
in some ways as well. I have not experienced the extreme abuses that many domestic
workers have faced, but the lack of security is something artworkers and the domestic
workers have in common. Respect the courage of the domestic organizer reaching out
on the ground.
CT- agree, felt like artworkers and domestic workers had the most in common.
LW- the point was made that solidarity needs to transcend class positions. Other
good point was that class can’t be ignored because class affects level of precarity and
CT – It’s not either/or.
LW- what does acknowledging that mean though?
GR- recognize life experiences.
BW- think it’s important to recognize there’s different levels of precarity within the same
position or workplace. Those with less security may not be able to be on front lines of
unionizing for example.
AB- differences need to be discussed and a common ground needs to be determined
before you move on. My background is less privileged than I now appear because of
LW- different backgrounds that aren’t always apparent based on first impressions.
Trying to work on being mindful of other people.
GR- sothebys for example seemed effective because it seemed like it was initiated by
and important the people involved?
LW- arts and labor members organize around their own workplace conditions.
GR- interested in how to pick actions or focus when there are barriers and differences.
Do the differences erode?
LW- long term question is one I think about in the labor organizing issue. How can we
organize in a way that doesn’t just result in asking for more from people in power but
erasing the big differences in power.
CT- thinking the whole art world system is terrible. I came out of discussion thinking
impossible to organize artists based on these existing models
GR- starving artists can still be considered as elitist by a lot of people because artists
aren’t “productive” in current society art isn’t utilitarian. If you aren’t doing something to
move the productive economy forward are you not creating “value” in a lot of peoples
LW- why is the goal to transform shitty workplaces into equitable places why aren’t we
trying to create new equitable places instead?
AB- material conditions for some people are dire. People seem isolated and alienated
from each other. Need to tap into that shared desperation. Labor organizing could shift
ideological norms. Lately have clear sense for what I don’t want but am still identifying
what I do want.
LW- Hopefully one day the new workplace I am involved in will come to fruition. Why
aren’t we starting new models?
CT- this is more practical based on what we know, starting new is daunting. I think it’s
less for ideological reason than practical.
AB- thought about this especially after visiting community garden. Making assumption
that some people are struggling in their daily lives.
LW- poor people do start all kinds of businesses. Last night was depressing- the talk
about the laws that restrict militant unionizing
AB- even the material precarity of newly graduated art students is something to hook
LW- still worried about organizing people to ask for more things from the people in
power limits how far we can think outside this structure
AB- there are still some forms of organized labor that are interested in true equitability.
Better conditions could be first step but not ending there.
GR- lots of different factions through history of cooperatives. For example Spanish
civil war? What does it mean to be up against enemy who wants to destroy labor? Like
today? There was creative work that came out of this situation too.
LW- it’s hard for me to imagine how seizing all the power could happen, especially with
all the anti-strike laws etc.
AB- through small slow ideological shifts, but opportunities don’t just come, we have to
make them. Workers can still organize themselves through refusal and withdrawal.
GR- people in the digital world are able to organize outside the system, for example
AB- I think people can physically walk out still, people need to be radicalized.
BW- there needs to be a structure of support in place first, people’s food, medicine, etc.
is now tied to workplace can’t afford to sever that.
GR- this idea of moving up the chain and then you are in power is pervasive
LW- academia is like this too, there is the false idea that you have freedom within it .
Freedom is limited. But these are also some of the few spaces where people feel like
they they can still have radical ideas and some freedom.
CT- does this need to be either/or? Can’t we address both conditions now and also build
new better conditions?
LW- how do you curb natural impulse to take leadership roles and distribute equitably
CT, LW, BW decided it was a good idea for raras to get to know each other’s artwork
better. Will have studio visits or presentations. Build trust, get to know each other, see
how it relates to our activism or how those skills can be used for a/l work.
Questions for panelists at thursday’s event:
Do you think another world – not just another art world – is possible? One without this
morally bankrupt artworld, one in which art and finance are not linked, etc. How can we
Do you sell or buy art? Do you believe that commodifying art destroys any part of it?
Does the existence of an art market hinder artistic production?
Are you an artist, if so how does this identification relate to your role in the art industry?