The Work of Art in the Age of Crisis: Interrogating the ‘Labour Turn’ in the Culture Industries.
University of the Arts, London
Supervisor: Christopher Kul-Want
Since the financial crisis of 2008 and the ensuing period of austerity, there has been a focus in the arts on artworks and art making as embodiments of labour. This ‘Labour Turn’ is a social movement that can be characterised by its composition: by a variety of ‘labour concerned’ practices. Examples include artworks, waves of art activism and symposia at art institutions, all of which foreground labour as a central concern. My thesis will analyse this Turn examining concrete examples from the three main areas in which labour is frequently represented: the production, and distribution of contemporary art, and arts activism. I will place the Turn within its socio-economic contexts: art institutions bearing austerity driven cuts post 2008 crisis.The PhD will focus on the UK, which has seen the fastest growth in this area. It will produce original research by interrogating the Turn's recuperation by austerity ridden arts institutions. It will provide a critical history of how the arts sector bears the impact of state austerity, and will develop a critical account of the ways in which arts’ labour practises frequently enact an ‘ideology of representation’. Finally I will interrogate the institutional co-option of the Turn, the role of which, I will argue, neutralises art-labour’s structural antagonisms1.I will produce a body of experimental artworks that critically instantiate labour, using my thesis’ findings. Drawing on the traditions of political art practise, I will make a montage film recycling found-footage gained from research in the BFI National Archives. In conjunction I will produce a series of art-work-pamphlets that draw on the aesthetics of artist publishing and political pamphleteering. The works will be exhibited at sites pertinent to labour histories including The Peoples History Museum and The Bishopsgate Institute.