The rationale for Work a work is this need for further research focusing on collaborative artistic work processes, but also to problematize the concept of work in an era of crowdsourcing, microfunding, and an expanded precariat.
To investigate this without the constraints of our own pre-understanding of the concept of work, and as a way of questioning the expertise of the researchers, a group of visual artists, curators, and a musician will explore the theme together with an interdisciplinary network of researchers and practitioners. The idea is to use the development of the art project as a way to engage a wide group of people in the research. Some other underlying themes that are going to be discussed in additional workshops and more public seminars are:
- The locus of power and control in a more dynamic peer-worked collective where participants’ roles and status are continuously negotiated.
- Conflicting discourses and theories about work, e.g. solidarity versus the “economic man”: How are the changed work relations explained and justified?
- Where is solidarity when your social network is the means for production?
- How is the creative process affected by changing norms regarding work?
However, the starting point in the artistic research project is not the overall theme, but how the theme relates to our personal conflicts and interests. This appropriation of the situation for one’s own purpose and self-understanding is also a way of describing a structural problem through the individual narrative and a way to connect a common history with a personal. The artists and invited practitioners and researchers will discuss their own experiences of work in order to develop the common theme and to root abstract ideas in situations that we have experienced ourselves.
It is a common practice in contemporary art to position an artistic investigation at a specific place and/or within the framework of a particular theme. What distinguishes this project from other art projects more closely run by curators is the emphasis on knowledge being created within the group of participating artists, a methodology that I developed together with Åsa Andersson Broms and Nils Claesson in earlier projects (such as Best before 1991, Pengar 2001, Re.produktion 2005, and Performing the Common in 2012). This project will be devoted to this process of knowledge creation. We will focus on the collective creation of knowledge that takes place in a group exhibition and will encourage this in various ways. In a thematic exhibition, the artists relate to a common theme and, at times, to shared experiences, while contributing their own personal narratives. The individual artworks are also developed collectively since the artists meet regularly and reflect on the project as well as share information.
This process will start with the theme of “work” and will develop through the work and reflection of the artists in dialogue with different points: the artists’ ongoing project, the overall discussion of the theme in the group of artists and the reference group, and the various structures that are made visible through the shared work.
This collective approach to work touches on what is known as “memory work,” a qualitative feminist model in which the participants collectively or individually analyze their own memories pertaining to a particular subject (Evans Hyle, 2008). In its feminist understanding of knowledge, memory work is reminiscent of the artistic methodology in that it is concerned with founding an understanding for overriding social structures in one’s own personal experience. Precisely for this reason we will make use of memory work in this project as a method of penetrating and developing the subject through our collective experiences.
Memory work means that the researcher herself, or several researchers/informants in a group, research their own memories within a selected theme. A memory work starts, for example, with a group that decides to write down memories around a certain theme that is then collectively analyzed in the group (Willig, 2013). The memory-work method was developed by a team of researchers around the sociologist Haug (1999). The method is primarily derived from two theoretical traditions within the interpretive paradigm: hermeneutics, by assuming a constructive interactive process of knowledge, and phenomenology, by emphasizing the importance of lived experience for understanding (Markula & Friend, 2005). The ambition is to reach a general understanding of a phenomenon by starting the investigation from an understanding of the individual’s experiences. To achieve this, you begin by describing conscious individual memories. The collective analysis of each memory is then intended to detect the underlying conflicts and to identify the cultural norms and behaviors involved – the reason for the memory becoming a memory. The method focuses on Husserl’s idea that memories are often just memories because of strong experiences of encountering different structuring norms. The memories are not interesting in themselves, but as examples of situations that contain various kinds of structurally determined conflicts. Although the memory starts with the individual memory, it is important to emphasize that it is not this subjective memory that counts, but the intersubjective process of knowledge that the work with the memories creates in the group (Onyx & Small, 2001). In the art and research project, the memory work will be used as a way to develop the theme of the art projects. The artists and researchers will meet regularly in workshops and on an online forum over a period of two years.
Haug, F. (1999). Female sexualization: a collective work of memory. London: Verso.
Markula, P., & Friend, L. A. (2005). Memory-work as an interpretive methodology for sport management. Journal of Sport Management, 442–463.
Onyx, J., & Small, J. (2001). Memory-work: The method. Qualitative Inquiry, 7(6), 773–786. doi:10.1177/107780040100700608
Willig, C. (2013). Introducing Qualitative Research In Psychology. McGraw-Hill International.