Essay for Aversion Management, Rogue Project Space, September 2013
Aversion Management looks at productivity from the side of the manager. The work of artists is more often than not self-directed unpaid work. The pressure to produce is, for most artists, strong but there is often no external source of this impulse. As Adorno says, the artist “embodies the social forces of production without necessarily being bound by the censorship dictated by the relations of production” 1. For Aversion Management we want to bind the artists to the relations of production and see how they perform. We are exposing ‘work’ – both the work of artists, and the work involved in running a space.
Artists have to fit art-making around the demands and deadlines of other aspects of their lives. Will artists be more productive by subjecting art to the same strict structure and deadlines as other aspects of life? As OTCOP 2 say in ‘A Living Body Performing its own Autopsy…’, “Individually, we can be better or worse at managing time, prioritising processes and planning production. These are key capacities required to make any post-Fordist collaboration function efficiently and without apparent conflicts”3. The work of an artist is not just the production of artwork, but all of the meetings, networking, emails, applications and marketing that goes along with it. The exhibition aims to highlight this work by making it the object of critique – an artist is paid in relation to their work efficiency, not on how established they are, or how large the work is. The exhibition is a classic ‘project exhibition’, a term coined by Marion von Osten 4, in that the ‘what’ becomes secondary to the ‘how’, as opposed to a thematically curated exhibition. As Liam Gillick says: “Art production and work methods are not temporally linked or balanced because the idea of managing time is not a key component of making art, nor is it a personal or objective profit motive for artists. Unless they decide that such behavior is actually part of the work itself” 5. The ‘what’ in this case is the control of the artists’ working methods.
Quite surprisingly we found this method very successful. Just by making artists aware that they were being scrutinised seemed enough to spur them on to become high-achievers. They went above and beyond to produce labour intensive, ambitious artworks. Under normal circumstances this is all that is asked of artists, and would be more than enough to secure them a full artists fee. But despite all of this extra labour, they still managed to slip up on their basic targets – Thomas Yeoman’s artist bio is now three weeks overdue, and Adam Renshaw’s tarmac is still wet (being dyslectic is no excuse!). As charming and hard-working as they are, we have no choice but to reduce their fee accordingly.
1 Adorno, T. (2004) Aesthetic Theory, London: Continuum, p. 55
2 OTCOP is a research group, OTCOP stands for On The Conditions of Production.
3 OTCOP, “A Living Body Performing its own Autopsy…” in Engqvist, J. et al (eds.) (2012) Work Work Work: a Reader on Art and Labour, Berlin: Sternberg Press, p. 223
4 von Osten, M. (2010) “Another Criterion… or, What Is the Attitude of a Work in the Relations of Production of Its Time”, Afterall issue 25, Autumn/WInter, pp. 20 – 22
5 Gillick, L. “The Good of Work”, in e-flux journal (2011) Are You Working Too Much? Post-Fordism, Precarity, and the Labor of Art, Berlin: Sternberg Press, p. 71