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Нови Леви Перспективи
"По-лесно е да си представяш края на света, отколкото края на капитализма." Фредрик Джеймисън

07.06.2015, 19.00 at the fridge & xaspel
Sofia, 8 Madrid. blvd

Unpaid/low paid artistic labor appears to be a universal trend in the neoliberal political economy, along with an overabundance of art school graduates constituting a ‘reserve army’ for the labor market of the non-profit/non-governmental arts sector.

Conventional scholarly research on artistic work as well as cultural policy measures developed by governments or transnational bodies (UNESCO) tend to separate artistic labor from other types of labor and consider it to be exceptional. In this lecture I will propose a counter view by arguing that the paradigm of exceptionality not only obscures the reality of desolate working and living conditions of artists and cultural producers, but also traps cultural producers in circuits of unpaid labor. The absence of payment in this respect makes artistic labor invisible under capital where the wage nexus is what would recognize the artist as a worker. Drawing analogies with theories developed in the context of the Wages for Housework Campaign during the 1970s led by feminist Marxists, I will examine how artists/art associations and governments negotiate the status of artistic work. My arguments will draw on debates in two contexts – post-socialist Slovenia and post-crisis US – which exemplify divergent responses to the recurring crisis of unpaid or low-paid artistic labor.

First I will look at the Law for Independent Cultural Workers introduced in 1982 in still socialist Slovenia and its subsequent changes during the post-socialist 1990s, which have contributed to the precarious working conditions of artists and cultural professionals. The second example will explore the grassroots artists’ initiative W.A.G.E. in New York (US), which in the absence of state regulation developed a self-regulating program W.A.G.E. Certificate. The certificate is granted to non-profit organizations in US that meet a minimum payment standard in order to establish minimum compensation in the nonprofit arts economy and to promote a fair distribution of resources.

Katja Praznik is an Assistant Professor at State University of New York at Buffalo, where she teaches in the Arts Management Program. She holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Ljubljana. Her research focuses on the politics of unpaid artistic labor, and political economy in the arts during the demise of the welfare state. As a dramaturge she worked with several dance artists, such as Maja Delak, Matija Ferlin and Iztok Kovač. She was the editor-in-chief of the performing arts journal Maska (2007–2009) and co-authored the book Chronotopographies of dance: Two Inquiries (EMANAT, 2010). From 2009 to 2011 she was engaged in improvement of working conditions of independent cultural producers at Asociacija, Association of Cultural NGOs and Freelancers in Ljubljana. Currently she is working on a book project Remuneration of artistic labor: a transcontinental comparative analysis, a study of cultural policy regulation and grassroots artists’ initiatives concerning unpaid artistic labor in three different environments all ridden by the process of neoliberalization: post-socialist Slovenia, post-unified Germany and post-crisis US.

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