september 25, 2015

It has been a hectic month for us, but still we have managed to do some cooking in between exhibitions and all the planning ahead. A couple of weeks ago we hosted a party for a bunch of creative thinkers, and we invited our friend Diana to write about the seminar which had brought them all together in our little town. Because of the seminar's international character, this post is written in english.

Hi, my name is Diana. I arrived in Trondheim this fall to start studying at Trondheim Art Academy’s master program. Trondheim has offered me a wide range of inputs, not only to my professional practice as an artist, but also on a personal level. Today I’m telling you about my thoughts regarding a seminar I participated in at the begining of this month month, which ended with an arty party at Rake Workspace Community for Artists and Architects (organized by Kunstkantina).

After a busy week at the academy I’m glad I didn't let myself scare by the long title of the seminar: "Art Production in Restriction. Possibilities of Transformative Art Production and Coalition-Building". The seminar was organized by LevArt and curated by Rena Raedle and Vladan Jeremic from Belgrade. Overloading my circuits with too much information, was a real concern of mine when I showed up at the Nova Hotel for an afternoon of plenary sessions last Saturday. Fortunately, I forgot my worries when the first of three groups started to present their thoughts about refining the language around our professional practice as artists.

The following are some of the questions and thoughts that stayed with me after the presentations and which I will bring forward in my future life and work as an artist:
How can we actively engage and react to an art world that continuously relies on interns and unpaid labour from artists? How can we shift the artist's attitude from accepting the current state of play, which often includes a lot of unpaid labour in order to show our work, to a more proactive approach where we all remember to include fees in our project proposals so we can avoid self-exploitation? And how can we insist on the value of our work in a world that continues to rely on quantification and debt as the most important currency?

The three groups presenting consisted of artists, writers, critics, and curators from Europe and the United States. They shared different examples and points of view from their local environment, which made the urgency of more global cooperation and exchange on the matters of artistic work more apparent.

Two of the terms I was introduced to during the weekend was precarity and translocality. These terms made me think of my current situation having just entered a new international Master program with representatives from almost all continents. As artists and/or artistic workers we have to choose the precarious life. We have to choose the uncertainty of temporary positions, unstable living conditions and have very few options to organize ourselves. For a while all is well, the life in transit as a translocal is great and we can thrive on the multitude of input we get because it adds to our education as polymaths and interpreters of culture. But as soon as the question of family life with kids arises, the need for a stable income force some to opt out of the precarious life as an artist or artistic worker. And NO, it is not a question of who is more talented or not. It’s simple maths, and for some it just doesn't add up.

Valuation of artistic work presents a whole range of problems, or to use a more corporate word, challenges. If art is defined as labour, is it then a "special kind of labour" which requires different systems within society to stabilize the precarious nature of the job? Can you define the work of an artist as a sub-contractor? Can the American model W.A.G.E. be extended to other countries? Or are alternative currencies like Faircoin or Artmoney the way to bypass the systems along with an exchange of labour within the community?

Following the sunday sessions there were presentations of publications that the participants had brought along. This was the start of many conversations and as a bonus we were invited to join in when the seminar changed it’s location to Svartlamon and Rake, where Heidi-Anett & Lena Katrine had prepared a wonderful meal. After many hours of talk, food and dance I happily walsed down "Trondheim avenue" with a handful of new connections and another handful of new ideas about how to further the conversation in my local vicinity.

As a response of the seminar I wrote down the following:
I identify myself as an artist first, a maker, then as an entrepreneur, as a seller of objects and as a worker. Cultural value is my capital. Sometimes I am hired and sometimes I am occupied.
At the moment I am a student again and for a while that will be my stability. But still I will be looking to produce a more sustainable and fair way to organize my fellow artists and myself so we can break out of a cycle of self-exploitation and a status as intermittents, or for lack of better word, in-betweeners. I will be seeking to find a more conscious conversation about our values as experts in inter- and transdisciplinary work, as thinkers, interpreters of culture, makers, citizens and all the other titles we collectively encompass.

The seminar was held at Nova Hotell, Trondheim 4-7th of september 2015, for more information go to Transformative Art production. 

About me:
Diana Lindbjerg, 1982.
From Denmark.
Graduated in 2012 with a BA hons in fine art photography from the Glasgow School of Art.
Former board member of UKK (Unge kunstnerer og kunstformidlere), Denmark.
Currently studying International Master of Fine Art at Trondheim Kunstakademi, Norway.

All my best
Diana Lindbjerg


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