Katja Praznik (USA)

Innovative Leadership: Wages for Art Workers – Confronting the Paradox of Unpaid Labour in the Arts

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Ved at trække på erfaring og historiske omstændigheder i relation til kunstnerisk arbejde og arbejdsreguleringer i det socialistiske Jugoslavien, vil dette foredrag diskutere opfattelsen af kunstnerisk arbejde, for at afmystificere kunstnerens arbejde som ’exceptionelt’, og undersøge hvorfor dette perspektiv tilbyder en strategisk position i kampen for egenkapital under den institutionaliserede kunstproduktion i vores neoliberalistiske samtid.

Beskrivelse af eventet eksisterer kun på engelsk

Drawing on the experiences and history of arts workers and of labour regulation in the socialist Yugoslavia, this lecture will discuss why an understanding of artistic labour as work can provide tools for the demystification of artistic labour’s ‘exceptionality’, and why this perspective offers a strategic point in the struggle for equity in the context of institutionalised art production under contemporary neoliberalism. It will also argue that the processes of transformation of artistic labour that unfolded in the context of Yugoslav socialism point to an even deeper issue – one not necessarily connected to the political and economic system per se, but to the hegemony of particular aesthetic and philosophical traditions in Western art. These intellectual traditions provide a fertile ground for economic exploitation.

The talk is inspired by feminist analyses of ‘reproductive work’, employing them to grasp the paradox of unpaid artistic labour, which germinates from the contradiction between the exaltation of artists versus the undervaluation of artists’ labour. The Yugoslav example provides an excellent case study to uncover the interconnected aesthetic and economic mechanisms at work. In its dismantling of the welfare state mechanism, neoliberal rationality laid bare the problems of the mystification of artistic labour. Ideas inscribed in the historical institutionalisation of art and artistic work became the site of a false opposition between artistic labour and subsistence. The mendacity of the discrepancy, which underpins the current neoliberal instrumentalisation of discourses about creativity, became more pronounced after the fall of socialist political systems, making the study of these processes an important tool in understanding the current relationship between art and labour not just in Eastern Europe but across the world. Combining these perspectives, the talk will demonstrate how the reverberations of the paradox shaped the material conditions of artists in socialist Yugoslavia and in the ongoing nightmare of the post-socialist transition. It will also address current initiatives around the globe that grapple with unpaid labour by creating grassroots policies to secure remuneration for labour in the arts.

Katja Praznik is an Assistant Professor in the University at Buffalo’s Arts Management Program. She holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Ljubljana. She teaches cultural policy and courses related to the political economy of the arts and critical inquiry of arts management. Her research is centred on the politics of unpaid artistic labour during the demise of the welfare state. Before moving to the United States, Praznik worked as a freelancer in the Slovenian independent art scene. She was the editor-in-chief of Maska – performing arts journal (2007–2009) and was engaged in the struggle for improvement of the working conditions of art workers in Slovenia at Društvo Asocacija (2009–2012). Praznik was also involved in attempts to improve the production conditions for contemporary dance in Slovenia and researched its history. As an art critic, she wrote for the daily newspaper Dnevnik and worked as a dramaturg with various artists, such as Maja Delak, Matija Ferlin, and others. In 2010, her book Ideologies of Dancing Bodies was published as a volume of Chronotopographies of Dance: Two Inquiries with Slovenian publisher Emanat. Praznik’s research has been published in edited volumes, such as NSK from Kapital to Capital (MIT Press, 2015), Crisis and New Beginnings: Art in Slovenia 2005-2015, and peer reviewed journals, such as the KPY – Cultural Policy Yearbook (Bilgi University Istanbul), Historical Materialism (Brill), and Journal for the Critique of Science. Her latest book, The Paradox of Unpaid Labor: Autonomy of Art, the Avant-Garde and Cultural Policy in the Transition to Post-Socialism, was published by Založba Sophia in Slovenia in 2016. Currently, she is working on a book manuscript, Invisible Art Workers: Contradictions of Creative Labor After Socialism. Grounded in feminist epistemology and in an analysis of artists’ labour regulations during Yugoslav socialism, Invisible Art Workers argues that art needs to be understood as work in order to demystify the exceptionality of artistic labour, which operates as the key mechanism in perpetuating the economic devaluation of artists’ work.

About The Innovative Leadership Network (ILN)

Artists as leaders of change”

ILN is a Nordic cross-disciplinary platform working towards enabling artists to become leaders, developing innovative methods for artistic research activities, as well as developing new ideas in relation to rethinking institutions, increasing audience engagement, investigating new presentation formats, tackling political & societal issues or working on sustainable practicesin order to challenge status quo.

The platform proposes fruitful exchanges between Nordic & European artists, researchers and creative workers from the performing arts field through networking events, lectures & thematic workshops, and open seminars that will take place in Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway from April 2018 to October 2020. Regular online publications will feed the reflection and build cross-sectoral knowledge.

INL is one strand of an ambitious Artist’s Research Lab and Residency Programme developed by Dansehallerne and its partners.

Partner & Venue: Udviklingsplatformen for Scenekunst, Bygning 48, Otto Busses Vej 5A, 2450 Copenhagen SV



Varighed: 2 timer


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Photographer: Douglas Levere