Indonesian artist Wok the Rock critiques the precarity of art world labour conditions with Yogyakarta-based collective project titled “Artist Job Fair”.
Artist Job Fair is a critical art intervention, consisting of a series of workshops and talks, conceived by Indonesian conceptual artist and musician Wok the Rock. Artist Job Fair’s events opened on 7 December 2017 and will run until 13 January 2018.
While the internationalisation of artist residencies, education programmes and art world employment seem to suggest that anyone can work anywhere, the reality of visa restrictions, rising costs and low wages mean that making a living from art is only an option for the wealthy few. In December 2017 Indonesian artist Wok the Rok launched a two-month programme of workshops, talks and critical actions designed to gather a critical mass populated by young and emerging critics, designers, educators and artists based in Indonesia. Ironically titled the “Artist Job Fair”, the events were conceived to explore and combat the increasing tension between the professionalisation of art enquiry and the lack of sustainable employment.
The Artist Job Fair’s base was at the Cemeti Institute for Art and Society, which the artist transformed into an exhibition, workstation and resource centre. Talking with Art Radar about the origins of the project, Wok the Rok stated:
This project is my respond to Cemeti’s new direction/platform Institute for Art and Society and its Maintenance Works project where there is a question “what is gallery for?”. My first intention was not to make an artwork or art project, but to create something useful for the community; especially the artists who are now in a very precarious situation. The art market that blown up in 2008 created big dreams and not a few who see the art is a field of work that can ensure financial life. Young artists became opportunistic and pragmatic.
On the other hand, there are many artists who who live their lives through artist residency or art grant/fund program and not a few are also sacrifice their interest or ideology only to get free money and living abroad (which in common society in Indonesia, to be international is considered cool and upgrade your social status). Started from this conditions, I wanted to share the opportunities, skills and knowledges about residency and grant/fund program in a good way. The english title ‘Artist Job Fair’ and the Indonesian title ‘Dana Umum & Kesempatan’ is an appropriation from a commercial/finance term. The aim is to make an irony-yet-catchy title.
On the day of the opening, Thursday 7 December 2017, the project kicked off with an introduction by Wok The Rock followed by a presentation by artist Maryanto, formerly artist-in-residence at Rijksakademie Amsterdam, and a speech by researcher Brigitta Isabella (from KUNCI Cultural Studies Centre). Presented as a performance lecture, Isabella’s talk, titled “The mobility of cosmopolitan vagabond artist and our strategy of culture”, critiqued the lack of critical discussions around the discourses, historical context and labour conditions promoted by the “artistic residency”.
In her talk, later published as a pamphlet, Brigitta Isabella departs from the residency experiences of her peers – young contemporary artists such as Natasha Tontey, Syafiatudina or Naomi Srikandi – as well as proponents of modern and contemporary art in Indonesia such as Affandi and Trubus, questioning the centrality of travel and exchange to the entire contemporary art system. Describing the nebulous situation, the artist states:
Sites like On the Move, TransArtist, and Wooloo all offer abundant information of residency opportunities for artists from various corners of the earth. A performance artist from Madiun would like to browse Europe? Or a New Media art curator from Makassar would like to have new experiences in Berlin? “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (so it is said in Matthew 7:7)
Brigitta Isabella’s fundamental question, in her own words, is:
Does the artist residency which backs up the discourse of global art also enable interventions and alternative narratives? Or does it trap artists within a uniform artistic language?
As well as performances and talks, Artist Job Fair offered workshops and pedagogical exercises, such as Wok the Rok’s own “How to Make a CV” workshop and “Writing in English with Ama Bahas”. The project is both critical of the professionalising of art practice and catering to “trendy western art discourses” as well as offering a genuine service and space of commune for local artists. Talking to Art Radar about the line between irony and sincerity, Wok the Rok stated:
The main idea behind my project is to share information, skills and knowledges in an open and critical way. The project presents or showing fully-funded international residency and grant open calls as a way to share information of opportunities for artists. Even though there are many online platforms for this informations, it’s still not popular in Indonesia. If you don’t have any networks or collectives, it is still hard to get this information as the artschool never publish or share them as well. So it’s very important to open this exclusiveness thru an exhibition. Even if you know about the information, some people don’t really know how to do it and what the global discourses behind it. The short course is a way to distribute this knowledge. There are series of workshops given by prominent and critical artists and curators. They are not only giving a how-to and tips but also give awareness against pragmatism and opportunistic thinking during the courses.
Alongside the workshop and performance space was a display of successful applications, proposals and a selection of works made by artists whilst participating in residency programmes. Artist Job Fair offered a series of short courses to develop related skills through an intensive series of workshops, presentations, tutorials and portfolio reviews, lead by a pool of art practitioners from Yogyakarta. Artist Job Fair – both a public programme and critical project – walks the line productively between irony and sincerity, critique and much needed service.
Artist Job Fair runs from 7 December 2017 to 13 January 2018 at Cemeti – Institute for Art and Society, Jl. D.I. Panjaitan No.41, Yogyakarta, 55143 Indonesia.
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