OPEN LECTURE: Joanna Figiel public lecture on artistic work

Teaduste Akadeemia, Kohtu 6, Tallinn

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Joanna Figiel public lecture on artistic work
On Wensday, January 27th 6PM we are pleased to host Joanna Figiel (London City University) who will hold an open lecture on artistic work. The lecture will take place at the main hall of Estonian Academy of Sciences, Kohtu 6.
„This short lecture will attempt to overview, and engage with, the vast array of issues faced – currently and historically – by those trying to make a living, pursue a meaningful career or simply survive in the sphere of artistic, cultural and creative work.
What does it mean to work as an artist? What does it mean to work as a female artist?
What is the class composition of artistic and cultural work? What are the lived realities of production for creative workers and different forms of subjectivation occurring in forms of creative labour? How does artistic labour function as a form of authentic self-expression?
To ask and engage with the above, as well as other related questions, I will firstly look at the general history of art workers movements, ideologies and politics, and further turn to a number of recent projects exploring and engaging with these issues.
To name a few, I will:
-bring together existing accounts addressing the politics of cultural and creative work and the findings of the “Metropolitan Factory” research project, developed in collaboration with S.Shukaitis.
-discuss the work of Citizens Forum for Contemporary Arts in Warsaw, Poland and the subsequent publication of the “Black Book of Work in the Arts” of which I was co-editor. (“Czarna Ksiega Polskich Artystow”)
-summarize a portion of findings from the recently completed, 2-year long, “Art Factory” research project of the Free/Slow University of Warsaw examining the distribution of capital(s) in Polish art-world, with the specific focus on issues of female workers and artists
-look back at the ongoing practices and shared tools developed by the Carrotworkers Collective and the Precarious Workers Brigade in London, UK.
Finally, I will give some examples of how we can take responsibility – but whose responsibility is it? – to step out for art workers’ rights and working conditions in the current political climate of neoliberalism and generalized precarity.“
Joanna Figiel is a doctoral candidate at the Centre for Culture Policy Management, City University, London. Her research focuses on the changing compositions of labour, precarity, and policy in the creative and cultural sectors. She completed her MA at the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths. Joanna is a member of the editorial collective of the journal ephemera: theory and politics in organization, organizes with groups including the Citizen’s Forum for Contemporary Art in Poland and PWB in the UK, and collaborates with Free/Slow University of Warsaw and the ArtLeaks collective. She recently completed work on a special issue of a journal dedicated to workers’ inquiry and a collective research project exploring the practicalities of making a living as a creative worker in the city.
A workshop about the relationships of art and work.
Joanna Figiel and Airi Triisberg will also be holding a workshop at the Institute of Art History on January 29th, 10.15 AM (Suur-Kloostri 11, room 103). For participation please email to Rebeka Põldsam (
In this workshop, we will discuss how the problems of precarious labour are manifested and contested in the context of contemporary art practice. By examining examples of labour organising in the art field, we will discuss how precarity is addressed and conceptualised by art and cultural workers.
The workshop will focus on two themes in particular. In the first part, we will discuss how art workers relate to the modes of subjectivation that are typical to neoliberal economy. In this context, we will ask what is the role of art education in shaping these subjectivities and how could the imperatives of competition and individuality be contested. How can we manage our individual expectations and ambitions vs the reality of the art world/art economy, individuality vs collectivity ?
In the second part of the workshop we will look at concrete practices and strategies used by art workers initiatives that are currently active. What kind of tools do art workers use when seeking to change precarious working conditions in their local contexts? Which strategies are successful and where are their limits?
Recommended reading
Maarin Mürk, Maria-Kristiina Soomre, Airi Triisberg, Kõigepealt saame rikkaks, siis hakkame õiglaseks?

Kõigepealt saame rikkaks, siis hakkame õiglaseks?

Precarious Workers Brigade, Training for Exploitation? Towards an alternative curriculum

Training For Exploitation? Towards an alternative curriculum

Joanna Figiel, On the Citizen Forum for Contemporary Arts
Airi Triisberg, Art Workers Movement in Tallinn: the Politics of Disidentification
Art Factory Polish survey/ report excerpt
Further readings:
Airi Triisberg’s -Estonian text about the recent organising in Estonia
PWB Alternative Curriculum ?
Counter-internship guide ?
Citizen forum
Bulletpoints to think about:
thinking of ones artistic practice as labor, are artist workers?
artist income
content of their art academies’ curriculum
expectations vs reality of the art world/art economy
competition vs individuality
internalisig/personalising systemic issues
collectivity? do artists and collectives work? what are the limits of collectivity? issues/limits of unionising
burnout/work-life balance
Possible steps:
– working through examples of practices and initiatives. can we examine them critically?
– creating a problem list / offering ideas for a toolbox – creating a toolbox together?
– mapping precarity

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Posted by Solveig Jahnke

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