Now Can We Go? Refusal and labour in the art world
Reckitt, Helena. 2015. 'Now Can We Go? Refusal and labour in the art world'. In: Labours of Love, Works of Passion: The social (re)production of art workers from industrialisation to globalisation. AAH2016: Annual Art Historians Conference, Edinburgh, United Kingdom 7-9 April 2016. [Conference or Workshop Item]
Official URL: http://www.aah.org.uk/annual-conference/sessions20...
Abstract or Description
Social-reproduction theory demands that attention be paid to the mostly overlooked and undervalued people, activities, and things that generate and sustain life. This paper explores what such a shift in focus might mean within the art world. It looks at a range of tactics and strategies being developed across curatorial, artistic and critical projects: from activist efforts that question the art world’s reliance on dubious corporate money and private donors, to reformist efforts to agitate for improved working conditions for arts employees and arts workers, and exhibition practices that generate vast carbon footprints. Highlighting debates around affective labour and resistance, the argument begins from this question: what would it look like for arts workers to refuse to provide the excess surplus emotional as well as physical work, upon which the art system has for too long depended?
Exploring possible answers, Reckitt reflects on the collective project ‘Now You Can Go’ that she developed with a group of feminist curators and researchers in London in 2015. Inspired by the process of ‘deculturation’ that Italian feminist Carla Lonzi (1931–82) staged at successive moments in her life, the project explored Lonzi-esque tactics of affective withdrawal. In reviewing ‘Now You Can Go’ – from the issues it raised to the behind-the-scenes dynamics it entailed – she questions how the programme approached the issue of affective withdrawal, especially given its demands on work that was largely unpaid, self-valorising and potentially self-exploiting.