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.
CARLES GUERRA—WHAT IS THE BENEFIT OF POST-FORDISM FOR THE ART WORLD?
A much-unnoticed transition has led the art world from focusing on Cultural Studies to embracing a post-Fordist hegemony. Since Michael Hardt’s and Antonio Negri’s Empire was published in 2000, post-Fordism has become the buzzword for a paradigm shift reflected in the pervasive productivity attributed to culture. The art world, in contrast to other fields with natural resources, is still trying to come to terms with the expediency of cultural production. In the meantime, however, it has become common knowledge that museums do more than serve the sake of art, and growing evidence tells us that these institutions intervene in the lives of those who inhabit their surroundings. Moreover, the ontology of art work is very likely to include its own criticism as part of its own physiology. Collaborative and participatory strategies testify that traditional authorship is obsolete. The new division of labor in the art world has overturned the table where artists, curators, and spectators once used to sit. None of them play the same role they used to play. Given this change condition, how much can the art world learn from post-Fordism?
MICHAEL HARDT—WORK AND POVERTY
When faced with rising rates of unemployment and the prospect of a “jobless” economic recovery, many call with renewed urgency for more work. My view, however, is not that there is too little work today but too much. We want an income, of course, and the means to be creative but we don’t want work—and it is important not to assume that these only come together with work. I’d like to explore in particular how a politics of the refusal of work can correspond to a rethinking the concept of poverty and the power of the poor. Most often the poor are defined only by what they lack: they are merely those without: without a job, without a house, without legal documents, and so forth. It is necessary to overturn the image of the poor as victims who suffer passively and have no capacity or outlet for social production, recognizing the value and creativity involved in strategies of survival and a series of other social practices that constitute the wealth of the poor. I do not conceive of this revalorization in an ascetic way—celebrating the lack of possessions, for example, as a wealth of the spirit—but rather as a means to recognize the real social circuits of production, and creativity that pass outside of the workplace and the wage relationship.
Carles Guerra is Director of La Virreina, Center for the Image (Barcelona). He was first trained as an artist and developed his career as a freelance art critic and curator specializing in the dialogical aspects of visual culture and documentary. He is Associate Professor of Social Structures and Cultural Tendencies at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. As a member of the Greenroom reference group established at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College he researches post-media documentary practices. He has curated Art & Language in Practice (Fundació Antoni Tàpies, 1999), After the News (CCCB, 2003) and a retrospective of Peter Weiss”s films (x-cèntric, 2007). He is author of N for Negri (2000), a video interview with Antonio Negri, and of many essays on contemporary art and cultural policies. In 2006, he edited the Spanish translation of Art & Language Writings and since 2001 he has been a member of the editorial board of Cultura/s, a weekly review published by the newspaper La Vanguardia (Barcelona).
Michael Hardt‘s recent writings deal primarily with the political, legal, economic, and social aspects of globalization. In his books with Antonio Negri he has analyzed the functioning of the current global power structure (Empire, 2000) and the possible democratic alternatives to that structure (Multitude, 2004). In the third book of this trilogy, Commonwealth (2009), Hardt and Negri explore the growing economic and social importance of common goods and systems that allow for open access and sharing, outside of the constraints of either private or public property. They investigate how institutions of the common can open possibilities for an alternative society.