Taking (Back) Care

Reckitt, Helena. 2020. Taking (Back) Care. In: Sharon Kivland and Rebecca Jagoe, eds. On Care. London: ma bibliotheque, pp. 196-202. ISBN 978-1-910055-71-7 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

The article reflects on aa series of workshops that Helena Reckitt ran on the crisis of care in the cultural sector, between 2017 to 2019, in London and Sheffield in the UK, Helsinki in Finland, Toronto in Canada, and Paris, France. It includes 'Propositions for Taking (Back) Care' developed with cultural organisers in Paris.

Reckitt discusses her motivation for the series stemming from being over-stretched, under-resourced, and uncared for as a cultural worker.
While contemporary curators seem at pains to emphasise the caring nature of their work, often recalling the origins of ‘curating’ in the Latin ‘curare’ for care, where they direct their curatorial efforts is often less clear. A limited number of hyper-visible artists receive unequal amounts of curatorial attention, yet the vast dark matter of artistic and cultural labour works for low or little recognition and reward. Curators expend significant emotional labour on developing relationships with wealthy donors and influential funders, who they hope will support their projects. Yet they rarely seem to acknowledge the low-status and infrastructural activities that sustain production across the creative ecology, let alone make efforts to extend care those working in adjacent fields.

The essay foregrounds discussions on where care and value are typically invested in the art world, exploring connections between cultural labour and other care and service workers across global labour supply chains.

Reckitt reflects on the ambivalence at the core of care, and the dangers that accompany its romanticisation. The recent upsurge in discussions around care in the creative sector, including the workshops she discusses here, symptomise the widespread sense of how fragile and unsustainable collective futures feel.

Tactics developed across the workshops reflect a frustration with a certain performance of radicalism and criticality that is prevalent in the art world. Too often curators and institutional directors fetishise social movements and radical ideas in their writing and programmes without challenging or taking steps to change the conditions under which their projects occur. These propositions put pressure on cultural institutions to make good on the radical content of the art and ideas that they promote, to walk the walk and not just talk to the talk. They imagine new habits and structures that might enable care in the cultural sector to be more equitably valued, remunerated, and distributed.

The essay concludes by including 'Propositions For Taking (Back) Care,' developed with Christine Shaw in tandem with the exhibition ‘Take Care’ at Ferme du Boisson in Paris, at the Cite de Culture. Propositions were written by Gallery staff along with artists, curators, activists, students, and educators; Diego Aristizábal, Florence Cheval, Anne Degroux, Florian Fischer, Aurélie Gravelat, Marina James-Appel, Lucie Ménard , Léna Monnier, Terah Noll, Julie Pellegrin, Pusha Petrov, Christine Shaw, Septembre Tiberghien, and Yves Tixier.

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Book Section


feminism, care, institutions, curating, arts organising

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1 May 2019Accepted

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Date Deposited:

05 Apr 2023 10:00

Last Modified:

05 Apr 2023 10:00



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