January 30, 2010 from 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Goethe-Institut Wyoming Building 5 East 3rd Street NY, NY

What is the good of work? How and why did the sixties and seventies vision of a future defined by leisure change into the reality of an exhausting life of increasingly purposeless work? What are the implications of the shift from a Fordist model of production to a post-Fordist one? Why is work valorized in contemporary society? What happened to the radical potential of labor? What can we learn by examining its various critiques, from those expressed in the Middle Ages and up through the strategies employed by the Situationists and others? Unemployment is becoming a reality for an increasing number of people. How might we think of unemployment as an artistic and philosophical category?

These questions will be examined during four events at the Goethe-Institut Wyoming Building in the East Village. Each event will involve two guests–one artist and one cultural producer of another kind.

The series takes its starting point in the claim that today the artist–defined by creativity, unconventionality, and flexibility–might be seen as a role model for contemporary workers. Bohemians in general and artists in particular are the perfect entrepreneurs.


It has been suggested that artists are the perfect analogue of today’s entrepreneurs AND at the same time remain victims of a neo-liberal model that forces workers to rationalize their own redundancy via forced flexibility and developed multitasking. I will argue that this double definition confuses and masks the potential of a contemporary art that offers a precise critique of such a binary system without resorting to mirroring or documentary strategies alone. One way out of the unresolvable dilemma of pitching artists as both slave and master is recognition of contemporary art’s struggle with notions of difference and collectivity. Taking the city as a starting point, the presentation will search for a way to critique the post-modern city as a way to escape sentimental and nostalgic focus on lost modernisms. The interest in failed progressive models within urban development only masks the specific critical potential of some art now. Trick City will provide a narrative that starts to unpack the terrain of work and provide some precise definitions that explain why artists might find proximity to real models of work an obligation rather than an expression of victimhood.


In both the art world and common culture, the work as a determined object available for acquisition, exchange or trade seems to have reached its end. Nietzsche stated that the time of “art of works of art” has finished. Figurative works of art are for the most part now only installations, happenings, or actual performances; the same goes for cinema, theatre, and music. Great art exhibitions of the past have become events in themselves where art is substituted by its social event, which encompasses the works of art. In addition, music and cinema are now substituted by their own “downloading” which does not only question the work’s copyright, but also the author’s uniqueness and original creation. What does all this mean for the aesthetic experience? Is it still possible to discuss art regardless of these new features? Have we ended art of works of art through our neoliberal world where the market prevails even over the traded work of art?

Liam Gillick is an artist based in London and New York. Solo exhibitions include The Wood Way, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2002; A short text on the possibility of creating an economy of equivalence, Palais de Tokyo, 2005 and the retrospective projectThree Perspectives and a short scenario, Witte de With, Rotterdam, Kunsthalle Zurich and MCA Chicago 2008-2010. He was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2002 and the Vincent Award at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 2008. Many public commissions and projects include the Home Office in London (2005) and the Dynamica Building in Guadalajara, Mexico (2009). In 2006 he was a co-founder of the free art school project unitednationsplaza in Berlin that traveled to Mexico City. Liam Gillick has published a number of texts that function in parallel to his artwork. Proxemies (Selected writing 1988-2006), JRP-Ringier, was published in 2007 alongside the monograph Factories in the Snow by Lilian Haberer, JRP-Ringier. A critical reader titledMeaning Liam Gillick was published by MIT Press (2009). An anthology of his artistic writing titled Allbooks was also published by Book Works, London (2009). In addition he has contributed to many art magazines and journals including ParkettFriezeArt MonthlyOctober and Artforum. Liam Gillick was selected to represent Germany for the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009. A major exhibition of his work opens at the Kunst und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland in April 2010. He has taught at Columbia University in New York since 1997.

Gianni Vattimo is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Turin and was recently elected to the EU parliament. In the late eighties he coined the term “weak thought” to describe the condition and strategies of post-modern thought after the end of metaphysics. Although his most recent research has focused on religion, politics, and nihilism (Nihilism and Emancipation, 2004; Art’s Claim to Truth, 2008; Not Being God, 2009), since 2008 Vattimo has developed this “weak thought” from a more political perspective through reassessing Communism (Ecce Comu, 2008). His forthcoming book, co-authored with Santiago Zabala, is entitled Hermeneutic Communism (2011).

Events to follow in this series:

March 13th, 2010. 4pm 
Carles Guerra and Michael Hardt




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