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Andrea Fraser How to Provide an Artistic Service 1994

Andrea Fraser How to Provide an Artistic Service 1994

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urg> 68 Michael Brcuson How to Provide an Artutic Service 69 .:s:_:/_. producrivist. which in economic terms would be called service provision (:IS opposed to goods production).. If a critic were asked to . it would all but oblige him or her to think in terms of issues and words that could crOSS cultures.:. Is it possible for curators to have candid..0(5). . Helmut ." in [he sense described in our proposal..JEt-L. It Was first presented in conjunction with the "Services" exhibition in Vienna in 199·1and is available online in <hnp. determining feature of what has come to be called "project work.poetically. to us that..' "Providing a service. . how to build lasting relationships with them.2. &£0.I[. The biennials can help develop a poetics for contemporary art that has not been recognized Dr that does not yet exist.• 1·.I~_.. or independent of. including organizing.1li1A: /' ~:r EP.. Biennials offer an opportunity to transform the chasm between the la!!~i1ge of representation and the ~ of quality into a space in which many of the people demoralized by this split can make a'place for themselves./ /fc.JJ.TISTJC JEfi:V/("£ (/q 9if )11 N SL.V 70 1KoV/LI£. The language in which art from non-Western cultures is being defended is still often one of representation. may include: It appears the work of the interpretation or analysts of sites and siruannns in and outside of cultural instiru lions. the practices currently chnrncrerized as "project work" do not necessarily share a thematic. site-specific and lor public an activities. and if these debates are published. even contentious discussions with colleagues about the many audiences they are trying to reach. The focus of attention is not on what a work has to offer .4_1'-T~_.." Draxler and I offered the term "service" to describe what appeared to be a . LELlAJ& r_:·Y_T.ACKI. related variously to Instlrudonal critique..C_€. activist and political documentary traditions as well as post-studio. .. " We wrote: •. and politically . thematically. We have to begin to talk about art in ways in which everyone has something to lose. This labor.(/.. education.!.published here in print and in English for the first time.but the cause the artist serves and the political struggle with which he or she is identified./MON . 5 How to Provide an Artistic Service An Introduction Andrea Fraser n our initial proposal for the "working-group exhibition" Services.<.walkerart. which ones they feel most and least responsible to and why.l(Jtl) . perhaps in some collective biennial publication. philosophically. they [Quid help locate the words and the approaches to language that now carry maximum feeling and thought._.)rgue for an artist in a public event in an unfamiliar country. . is neither an intention (such as benefiting society) attributed to particular artists nor a content (such as This is. What they do seem to share is the fact that they all involve an amount of labor which is either in excess of. and how these relationships shape the understanding and possibilities of art within an exhibition or museum? The final issue is the one that will not go away: quality.7~C (JV}/tL})ErJ.{1NV/i'cA the communities who live with and around it. psychologically.r/ndaweb. the work of presentation and installation: the work of public education in and outside of cultural institutions: advocacy and other community based work. ..t:=/. If cross-cultural debates about art and artists continue to be parr of the programs of biennials.£fi. People have to write and lecture about art in ways that leave them exposed. Both the positive and negative responses to the presentation and to the artist would be revealing.. any specific material production and which canner be transferred as a product. rrJ/:-. AND ~C::. •.. regardless of whether the curators are sympathetic with the tastes and aesthetic assumptions of community members./_0I:_1 . dorumentary production and the creation of alternative structures. ZoYA joc(jR..: Y /)J CoJo. ideological or procedural basis.

called "How to Provide an Artistic Service" . it is a matter of the ethics of the social and subjective relations manifest in and through cultural practices. a central question it sought to address was the porential loss of autonomy consequent to appropriating models from other professional fields . In addition to the material concerns motivating the project Services.museum education or security) charatrcnzing a group of works. the fact that some artists collect fees from an institution and then sell work resulting from the project undermines the legitimacy of demands for fees. On the most basic level we could even claim that the prevalence of practices such as me payment of fees to artists by cultural institutions indicates that me emergence is simply an economic fact. or a "service department" for artists' The project Services was organized as an occasion ro consider some of these practical and material problems. This experiment could take the form of a book . Included in this is freedom from the rationalization of the language and 71 irs disposition? AlIIlrea Fraser How to Provide an Artistic Sen~cc . This demand provided for the possibility of acting collectively to determine and defend our interests . Services .. as well as from the frustration of working full time and for very prestigious exhibitions. to name some 1 have found particularly useful. the labor necessary to respond to those demands is often not recognized or adequately compensated. Proposing to talk about "How to Provide an Artistic Service" is part of an experiment I want to undertake to see if it's possible to develop a methodology which could function as a basis for something like a self-regulating profession of artistic service provision. Tn the artistic field.the model for which would be handbooks of professional conduct and technique common in other fields.should . Critical acceptance hod created a demand for projects within cultural organizations that was clearly not only a demand for the works of individual artists. in our work. What would . books like TIle Psychiatric hllen'iew Dr Organizational Diagllosis or Freud's papers on technique.represented an effort by myself and other artists to represent and safeguard our practical and material interests by creating forums for the discussion of those interests. educarors. Conversely. might further compromise our independence by turning us into functionaries of "client" organizations. That autonomy is represented. because of the reach of cultural practice from private homes to public buildings and streets. Like collective bargaining. security consultants. potentially. Bur it was also clear that this demand. gal1erists. public relations and employee-management relations consultants. and institutions. Should fees be opposed to sales? How should the integrity of project work be conceived? Do projects which require a high degree of participation by the instirution give that institution some rights to alter the work or determine 70 political decisions which may impact not only the working condisay that my tions 0 f artists bur also the function and meaning of their activity. we certainly did not do so to have our practices reduced to the jil1lctiolts of these professions. as well as the historical developments which may have contributed to the emergence of artistic service provision. yet stili not being able to make a living. this latter model could also. Designing contracts [0 safeguard our practical and material interests. While curators are increasingly interested in asking artists to produce work in response to specific existing or constructed situations. researchers. but achieving that would require a clarification of procedure and.particularly economic interests ." [ am speaking only for myself (and not for the project Ser1l/ces) when! of an-as-service-provision interest in all of these organizational activities derived as much from the possibility of artistic practice developing into something like a self-regulating profession as from the hope of gaimng leverage in dealing with art institutions. er cetera. in out relative freedom from me rationalization of our activity in the service of specific interests defined by the individuals or organizations with which we work. What is implied in all of these activities is less a trade-union model of collective bargaining than a professional model of collective self-regulation. We wenr on to write: there seems to be a growing ccnsensus among both artists and curators that the new set of relations [emerging around project work] . it is also a matter of the ethics of cultural practice. many curators committed to project development are frustrated by finding themselves in the role of producers for commercia! galleries.differentiate our practices from the functions we appropriated is precisely our autonomy. or even simply demanding fees in compensation for our services. "resolutions often represent on practical problems "service provision" to describe me economic condition of project work as well as the nature of the social relations under which it is carried out. the development of a basic methodology according to which legitimate needs and demands could be collectively determined. and to provide a forum for discussion of the impact of this development on the relations among artists. While many of us had taken up. Professional self-regulation is a matter of professional ethics as well as professional interests. For example. architects and exhibition designers. archivists. perhaps. As an artist I have a particular interest in these questions. by collecting information from a range of artists about their preferred working arrangements in order to prepare a set of general guidelines and perhaps a basic contract.and related activities I was involved in as I prepared the proposal . And. curators. expressed in invitations to undertake projects in response to situations and under conditions explicitly defined by others. Rather. My motive for Initiating Services came from the complications and conflicts I experienced as a result of entering into relations with curators and organizations for which there were no accepted standards of professional practice. represented something of a threat to artistic autonomy.as well as to consider the history of that kind of action. most importantly.such as contracts and fee structures . What I'm presenting ronight would be something like the introduction to such a book. provide a certain leverage for artists in dealing with cultural institutions and other commissioning organizations. we proposed As Helmut Draxler and [ wrote in our proposal.. or an argument for why such a book might be necessary. the positions and activities of curators.as a means of resolving practical problems. and by combining to form some sort of association. needs clarification.

Elaborating this would be necessary in order to dispel the subjective experience [ believe most artists have of the purely individual nature of demand (addressed to themselves or others): the myth that there's no demand for art as such. then. impose the competencies necessary to cornprebend the culture they define as legitimate as a condition of adequacy within the cities or states which support them. in the long run. [ would even say that the demand generated by the competition among and between art collectors and museum visitors aver the quantity and quality of cultural consumption is itself displaced from another locus. for a particular audience. as public institutions. Also included is the freedom "Well. They all serve social competition for status and prestige.which are themselves in conflict. why do they invite you?" It took me some time to realize that I was invited by one sector to produce a critique of the other. curators.where "supply.forms we use . and prestige is not a luxury. if you're so critical. Studio practice conceals this condition by separating production from the interests it meets and the demands it responds to at its paint of material or symbolic consumption. of legitimacy) and the criteria of value by which the position of others will be defined: such struggles are the dynamics through which the field reproduces itself. We arc demanding fees as compensation for work within organizations. The interests contained in any demand for arr. as the demand itself is subject ro perpetual displacement following the course of particular struggles within the field. payment for our services. meet. and which are the source of the incessant changing of [its] products. debased version of this kind of analysis is that the artistic field is no different from any other market in luxury goods. and all the other indices of influence over the popular professional perception of legirimate culture and legitimate cultural discourse. however." It would begin with a discussion of the objective character of the demand for art.. the wants invested in that demand are concerned. [ would say that we are all always already serving. while remaining unaware of the social functions they fulfill. if so. and without ever ceasing to respond to the expccradons of a particular class. and. Audrea Fraser . and But cultural institutions are not unitary entities. Project-based practice simply makes it necessary to pose them. convinced that only specific artistic interests are at stake . gallerisrs need new art to show and sell. without having expressly to seek it. Nor does one enter into these struggles voluntarily. forms. But status is not a matter of status symbols. the object is indifferent.guar- ill a practitioner of what is often called institutional critique. the motivating interests of which are often barely concealed and difficult to ignore. bur only for individual artists of particular genius. the demand which is shaped in the objectively or subjectively antagonistic relations [that is. They would be correct.. for press. by museums which. in economic cerms. as a value which is consumed at the same time as it is produced. As a service can be defined. accepting payment in exchange by definition. who are we serving and on what basis are we demanding payment? (Should we be demanding paymcnrj) Or. the needs. or symbolically by a museum visitor. et cetera. would make up a very large section of a book on "How to Provide an Artistic Service. professional and voluntary . They are composed of different sectors .a freedom which mayor "aesthetic" to may not manifest itself in recognizably of speech and conscience . er cetera. Critics and curators are trained and have an interest in being employed." But as far as the interests. Struggles to maintain and improve one's professional status vis-a-vis one's peers and to impose the principle of status (that is. Investments have been made and the field must reproduce itself. This primary demand to supply the reproduction of the field is conditioned by a second level of demand: that invested with interests related to competitive struggles between and among artists. competitive struggles] between the different classes Dr class fractions over material Dr cuirural consumer goods. et cetera. If we are.unless I work very hard-to do otherwise. I have often been asked.far example. Pierre Bourdieu writes: products developed in the competnivc struggles of which . for services.. The cynical.' The demand an art work meets when consumed materially by an art collector. as all artists are called upon to augment these functions for organizations and individuals at openings. [the field] is the site." Bourdieu writes. Of course. that these questions are not exclusive to projectbased practice. whether it is expressed in an invitation to undertake a project or nor. This is why. the entire contemporary art apparatus would just disappear. An invitation to produce a specific work in response to a specific situation is a very direct demand. as if as a result of some kind of vanity.which is supposed to safegu ard our right express critical opinions and engage in controversial activity. The intimate character of the adequacy and competence at stake in these struggles is evident in the anxiety even the most socially dominant person may exhibit when confronted with an institutionally consecrated work of art. critics. Fees are. the service element of projectbased practice eliminates such separation. "always exerts an effect of symbolic imposition. I know that if I accept that invitation I will be serving those interests . Participation is marc often mandated: for example. for audiences. press conferences. does that mean we are serving those who pay us? If not. may thus be conditioned by the struggles constitutive of the field of cultural production . Museums have been built and must be filled. The demand for art addressed to artists is often also directly related to competition between institutions themselves: competition for funding. The pursuit of prestige is only the dominant fonn of struggles for legitimacy of which culture is a primary site. in the absence of such artists. in any How ro Provide all Arristic Service 73 anteed by accepted professional practice . gallerists. whether or nor such practice is defined as a service. this is nor the case. how are we serving them? (And what are we servings) It is important to say. There are no artists I can think of who could credibly suggest that the functions their works serve have nothing to do with them or their artistic activity. cocktail parties.. and could JUSt as easily attach itself to another field. producers can be totally involved and absorbed in their struggles with other producers. he continues.

induding cultural institutions and galleries . people whose interests do nor coincide with ours and do not include serving us with their evaluations. if . It is a system of belief that req uires the judgment of others. while under the normal conditions of competition the judgment by artists of their peers has a high degree of credibility. distribution. In our case. Richard Nice University Press.and they lose their powers to consecrate and sell. We may work for ourselves. The divisions of' labor within the field between production. Mass. It has been my experience that the freedom gained in this form of autonomy is often no more than a basis for self-exploiration. to say that they serve no one. responding only to internal demands. Because we are working for our own satisfaction. [bid. to be appropriated by another. Di. rather. if those same evaluations appear to be based.case. It seems that subjective freedom.some of which are documented in the project SC11'ices . "Services: A Proposal for an Exhibition and a Topic of Discussion. Perhaps it is because the privilege of recognizing ourselves and being recognized in the products of our labor must be purchased (like the "freedom" to labor as such. 230. 1984). on an identification of interests (as has been the case. with cooperative galleries)."they serve objectively only because. trans.: Harvard Ibid . specific.to the extent that we can . subject only to the internal logic of our practice. the demands of our consciences or our drives. they become less than worthless. p.who and how we serve. or profit. I think. In forfeiting the right to regulate our activiry according to our professional interests. but in doing so we forfeit the right to regulate the social and economic conditions of our activity. the only course to a less contradictory principle of autonomy. 234. and reception are effectively divisions of interest. This dependence is only partly a result of the atomization of the artistic field.as Bourdieu writes . artistic freedom can only consist in determining for ourselves . If we are always already serving. we also forfeit the ability to determine the meaning and effects of our activity according to our interests as social subjects also subject to the effects of the symbolic system we produce and reproduce. for the satisfaction of our own criteria of judgment. of specific social use value.can only go a short way in alleviating such atomization and the dependence it produces. our labor is supposed to be its own compensation. for our own satisfaction. of conscience. The contradictory principle of our professional lives can thus be articulated as follows: dependence is the condition of our autonomy.'-'Ie. Notes Helmut Drexler and Andrea Fraser. 74 Andrei! Fraser How to Pravidr an Artistic Service 75 . generating surplus value. they serve their own interests. if not in a kind of secrecy_ Attempts by artists to form associations . As long as the system of belief on which the status of our activity depends is defined according to a principle of autonomy which bars us from pursuing the production we arc consigned to producing only prestige value. 240. autonomy -1 individual will are matched to an inverse degree by economic and social dependence. at the price of surplus labor. It often seems to me that our professional relations are organized as if the entire an apparatus . And it is conditioned precisely on the freedom from economic necessiry we express in our self-expioiration. for example. in all sincerity. pp. according to Marx). we work only for ourselves. and the empowerment of for our own satisfaction. If curators and dealers appear to be working for artists their judgment loses its "disinterested" character and thus its value . Its greater part lies not in material conditions of production but in the mechanisms of rhe system of belief which produce the value of works of art as well as the legitimacy of artistic activity. Pierre Bourdieu." Am I really serving my own interests? According to the logic of artistic autonomy.. This is.<!illctioll: A Social Critique of Ihe JlIIlgment of T. these divisions of interest are necessary to create the appearance of disinterest essential to the production of belief in the judgment of artistic value. the individualism and competition which consigns each producer to conducting her or his business in isolation. following only an internal logic. The Kantian model is alive and well. (Cambridge.was established to generously provide us with the opporrunlry to fulfill our exhibitionistic desires in a public display." Z 1993. highly sublimated and cuphemized Interests. it is primarily symbolic profit that we generate. It isn't difficult to see what kind of labor market we provide with ideological justification by investing in such a rcprcsentarlon. Similarly.

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