Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Valuing Labor in the Arts: Chelsea Wills

On April 19, 2014, the Arts Research Center hosted Valuing Labor in the Arts: A Practicum. This daylong event included a series of artist-led workshops that developed exercises, prompts, or actions that engage questions of art, labor, and economics. We have asked participants to send us their reflections on keywords, puzzles, or recurring themes that came up throughout the day. This post is by Chelsea Wills, a visual artist who works with places in flux and works closely with people inhabiting them.

I came home thinking about was risk and the number of ways that we as artists deciding (or being pushed) to take on risk with our work. All kinds of work include risk, and I relish some kinds of risk in my creative work. Artists work play many roles, some of its purposes are that our world is interpreted and re-interpreted to create newness , it bring attention to things unseen, it offers and enacts space where intersections are possible in previously unimagined or forgotten ways. 

This work is inherently risky. It is talked about in terms of creativity but this risk is invisible in lots of other ways. Artists are unique in their position of being the site where the risk meets in the art world. They interact directly with their own work, institutions, galleries, collectors, and the general public. The ways artists assume risk in these convergences is somewhat ambiguous at best. I came home from Valuing Labor in the Arts with seeds of what grew into some working fluid categories that I see in thinking about artists embodying risk.

Personal Risk: What am I risking? What do I stand to gain? Does this work compromise relationships to my self/family/friends/community/collaborators? Is this risk worth it for what I am trying to convey? Who else is shares this risk with me? Will I be able to count on them if things go wrong?

Creative Risk: Can I do this? Have I done it before? Is it a “valid” idea in my mind? In someone (collaborators, institutions, etc.) else’s mind? Who shares the risk if I mess it up? Who decides if I mess it up?

Financial Risk: What value is this work assigned by me? By someone (collectors, audience, insurers) else? By institutions? How much of my time does that constitute? Who recieves the benefit of this works success?

Institutional Risk: What does this institution stand for? How do they share risk with artists? How do they allow/support/create success for artists? What value do they put on all types of labor that happen there?

Broader Cultural Risk: What bigger conversations do I have access to? Who supports inclusion/exclusion from them? What risk do I put myself/my collaborators/the communities I work with in?

I am interested by beginning this articulation of risk in thinking about how risk is shared. By who and when? How do we as artists create, dismantle, imagine situations where we can share hard kinds of risks and allow each other the autonomy to work to our edges?

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