Martin Creed, Work No. 232: the whole world + the work = the whole world, 2000, Tate (featured image of this post)
The advertising poster for the exhibition Work Ethic includes the text “Artists. Hard at work or hardly working? You decide” above a photograph documenting the Hi Red Center’s Ochanomizu Drop (Dropping Event) of 1964, which consisted of dropping clothes and objects from a rooftop.
Avante Garde art after World War II : Helen Molesworth’s essay points out the increasing disregard for traditional artistic skills, drawing, painting, sculpting in the years following WWII. eg Erased De Kooning Drawing (1953) by Robert Rauschenberg and Frank Stella’s Club Onyx (1959) which consists of thick black stripes of household paint applied to the thickness of the store-bought brush. A Thing Done. Period. Robert Morris Box with the Sound of its own making– a box with the sound of its own making insistent upon the labour of its maker
Artistic Labour: The unifying principle of the Avante Garde was the concern with the problem of artistic labour . Historical convergence occurred, just as artists had relinquished traditional artistic skills and production of discreet art objects, there were changes in the industrial economy of America. The status of labour and production were changing throughout culture at large.
Manufacturing ——} Post Industrial Economy (rooted in managerial and service labour)
The artists staged, mimicked, and challenged the cultural and societal anxieties around the shifting terrain and definitions of work. Artists began to see themselves as workers in capitalist America
Authorship: Two texts also important to the formation of postmodern ideas declared the newly problematized author/artist. One was a short speech delivered by Duchamp, “The Creative Act” (1957), and the other was an essay by French theorist Roland Barthes, ”The Death of the Author” (1967).
“The Death of the Author” crystallized a point of view by succinctly describing an increasingly prevalent form of anti-authorial artistic practice. Many artists and writers in the 1960s found the idea of the author’s metaphoric death liberating, and they deployed a variety of means to undermine or downplay their own authorship. (e.g., Sol LeWitt) adopted serial systems, reasoning that a predetermined mathematical logic diminished the display of artistic subjectivity. (e.g., Yoko Ono) who turned the completion of the artwork over to the viewer in a literal way, creating participatory proposals that were only considered “art” once engaged by a viewer.
Because art has changed with the economy and working environment to attempt to mirror the world, the essay finishes with Molesworth stating: “Contemporary art may hold a key, then, to new identities and to how the conditions of social possibility can be reshaped in the new millennium.”
From the Studios
The group discussion took on the question of the role of an artist, how we view ourselves as practitioners, how our gender affects our success in the field and how society views the artist. I have become interested in the work of author and sociologist Sarah Thornton who has interviewed hundreds of artists for her books. She poses the question of What is an artist?’ and ‘What makes a work of art great?
Since the crash in Ireland- business looked at the creative industry. Short term contracts using artistic practice as a model, freelance workers etc. Insecurity? Flexibility?Are we similar to writers? Environment? social?
We could have a completely different system- art could operate differently- it could be a public service? The function of a person in the current economic model is to buy things. Art is non- instrumental, it doesn’t have a primary function now. Blue skies research is becoming more popular now, however, seeing what happens It is scientific research in domains where “real-world” applications are not immediately apparent. It has been defined as “research without a clear goal” and “curiosity-driven science.”
Can anyone be an artist? Do you need the focus and abnormal/obsessional level of interest? Everybody has creativity, there is value in the everyday. Irish artists have more qualifications and are more multitalented than most of the workforce, yet we are the highest unemployed. Art is not an economic transaction. We are not needed in the economy but in society. The question of where we fit into the economy is always instrumental- it will be a lifelong problem for us as artists.
Visual Artists Ireland has collected the statistics showing that the status of the visual artist has remained static in the past thirty years: The Social, Economic & Fiscal Status of the Visual Artist in Ireland
Here are the words of 8 prominent artists, who have strong and diverse thoughts on what constitutes insightful advice to artists. Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovich feels that it is essential to be ready to fail. Rock singer and poet Patti Smith shares the advice that writer William S. Burroughs once gave her: to build and protect your name by producing good work, and eventually the name will become its own currency. German film director Wim Wenders stresses that you have to do what no one else can do better than you. Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson recommends that you are sensitive to your surroundings.