Art Work: A National Conversation About Art, Labor, and Economics

Art Work: A National Conversation About Art, Labor and Economics is a social media project spearheaded by Temporary Services, a three-person art collective based out of Chicago, IL. The Art Work Web site hosts information on a free social service Temporary Services is providing (an independent newspaper) and various contact information, news, and information on how to be involved. All content is related to the basic notion of art and work, emphasizing the role artists play in the economy, as well as various strategies artists can use to continue making socially engaging works during our ‘Great Recession.’

Temporary Services wants to highlight the many ways artists are making work and building local artistic cultures across the country. To do this, they have put together a rich network of people and ideas to compose the content of the newspaper, with essays, art historical analyses of the relationships of art to unions, labor and money markets, and several op-ed pieces (“Personal Economies,”) where anonymous art workers describe the myriad ways they survive and are still able to produce work.

Contents also include an essay by Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Holland Cotter, a compiled history called “Selected Moments in the History of Economic Art” by Temporary Services, a complete transcription of conceptual artist Chris Burden’s 1979 radio broadcast on KPFK called “Send Me Your Money,” and the Manhattan-based 16 Beaver Group announcement on their global mega-merger between art and politics collectives into a mega-collective known as C.A.R.T.E.L. (16 Beaver did not specify what the letters in the acronym stand for).

Art Work Free Cover

Art Work: A National Conversation About Art, Labor and Economics, Temporary Services

The newspaper is free, and a pdf version is available for download at the project’s Web site, Temporary Services will send free analog copies of the paper to anyone wanting to host a local event for the project.

In 2009, Temporary Services began distributing copies of Art Work to various colleagues across the globe to host local events. The events could be anything from a full-scale gallery exhibition to a small get-together for people to have a conversation about the business of working as an artist. Temporary Services formally showed Art Work at SPACES in Cleveland, Ohio from November of 2009 to January of 2010; SPACES worked as the distribution hub for the paper.

Art Work Spaces

Art Work at SPACES, Cleveland, OH

Local events for Art Work have occurred in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and a few other countries. One of the premises of the printed newspaper is that it is in itself an exhibition. The paper can be taken apart and taped to a wall for a gallery-ready text piece, like Carnegie Mellon University’s Miller Gallery did for a blue motif in the exhibit.

Art Work CMU gallery

Art Work at Carnegie Mellon University’s Miller Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA

The subject matter of the articles in the 40-page Art Work newspaper works as a catalyst for local interests inside of the national conversation. When the event was hosted in my hometown of Anchorage, we were most interested in the ideas associated with microgranting, which is an essay entitled “Micro Granting From the Bottom Up” by a group called InCUBATE, found on page 21 of the paper. Microgranting is one of the few ways in Alaska of supporting each other in making work that doesn’t fit into traditional formats.

Art workers would rather see interesting work being made instead of waiting for a gallery or other cultural authority to become interested, which is how the current moment of social media becomes relevant: it simply takes too long for established analog spaces like museums and galleries to be harbingers of our changing culture. If we want to see something different, we can put it online.

Art Work gallery

Art Work at Gallery 400, Chicago, IL

Several art workers have stated that Art Work as a social media enterprise was a psychological comfort to them. They felt connected to other art workers across the country who (like themselves) are always coming up with creative ways of keeping their non-profit’s doors open, or keeping their artistic practice alive. At the very least—all of the local conversations, which are happening because of this project, people who live near each other are being made more aware of others in their area who are willing to give some of their own valuable time to work together on making a better future for each other. On page 10 of the paper, in large type is printed, “Nothing changes when people do not engage in the long and difficult work of building a diverse, multi-cultural, working class movement from the ground up.”

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