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Kuba Szreder

Artyzol’ is a Polish neologism, invented by the → Free/Slow University of Warsaw to describe the affectionate relationship between art workers and art work (Kozłowski, Sowa and Szreder 2015 ). We generated this term to denaturalise the same love of art that the art world mythologises. Artyzol is a linguistic hybrid of ‘art’ (in Polish, part of the word artysta , i.e. artist) and ‘Muchozol’, a bug spray produced during the good, old, communist times. This etymology is pretty fitting, as Artyzol might be fairly intoxicating in overdoses

in The ABC of the projectariat
Living and working in a precarious art world
Author: Kuba Szreder

The book addresses – in 66 accessible entries – the global circulation of contemporary art in the moment of its fundamental crisis. By using the term ‘projectariat’, the book detours the classical Marxist concept to talk about the life and work of artistic freelancers – artists, curators, critics, academics, writers, technicians and assistants – who, in order to survive, have no choice but to make one project after another and many at the same time. The majority of projectarians do not own much beyond their own capacity to circulate. Thus, they are torn between promises of unrestrained mobility and looming poverty, their precarity only amplified by the global crisis caused by COVID-19.

The book is intended as both a critical analysis and a practical handbook that speaks to and about the vast cohort of artistic freelancers worldwide, people who are currently looking for ways of moving beyond the structural conundrum of artistic networks, where everything that is solid melts into flows – and where nothing is certain except one’s own precarity. The book’s narrative is based on a carefully crafted balance between its three constitutive strands: an uncompromising critique of the cruel economy of global networks of contemporary art; an emphatic, non-moralistic understanding of the perils of artistic labour; and systemic advocacy for new modes of collective action aimed at overcoming the structural deficiencies haunting the global circulation of contemporary art.

Kuba Szreder

with light luggage is an exhilarating experience of mobility with an artsy clout, a poverty jet-set of late capitalist flaneurs . Regardless of its → footprint and long-term risks, independence gives a momentary kick that drags people along, doing for artistic circulation what → Artyzol does for the art world. And for this reason, a constructive critique of artistic circulation needs to unmake fixations with atomised independence, surmounting it with the notion of → interdependent connectivity, grounding individual autonomy within collective → support

in The ABC of the projectariat
Kuba Szreder

It is no wonder that after running on the fumes of → Artyzol and → enthusiasm the project-driven engines stutter and projectarians start to suffer from burn-outs, which often develop into chronic depression. Both are to be expected in the artistic circulation, which blurs distinctions between passion and production putting, as Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi quipped, people's very souls to work (Berardi 2009 ). Burn-out is a natural reaction to networked overproduction, when everyone is expected to spit out one project after another and dozens at

in The ABC of the projectariat
Abstract only
Kuba Szreder

initiatives, social movements, → support structures and → patainstitutions would have never materialised. The problem emerges when institutions, larger events or other gate keepers use people's willingness to engage as a justification for not paying them. This tendency is endemic among networks and more predatory institutions. Enthusiasm drives artistic circulation, just as → Artyzol saturates the art worlds. The artistic projectariat is expected to accept underpayment and precarity due to its supposed love of art and enthusiastic pursuit of its own projects. This

in The ABC of the projectariat
Kuba Szreder

. As Abbing writes, the artists’ situation is a derivative of the cruel economy of contemporary art (→ W is for winner takes it all ) and their willingness to work for free (→ A is for Artyzol ). His findings about the economic situation of artists are corroborated by many other studies, even if most of them do not share his explanations of the structural causes of artistic poverty. In 2010, W.A.G.E., an advocacy group from New York, commissioned a short report about the appalling working conditions in the arts, where most artists are not paid

in The ABC of the projectariat
Kuba Szreder

usually not very eager to abandon studios or galleries, and instead enthusiastically engage in projects, despite being disenfranchised by the systemic shortcomings of their flow (→ A is for Artyzol ). However, it is instructive to look at the legacy of art strikes not only as a positive model of action, but also to acknowledge the structural problems that their organisers encountered as a precaution against over-romanticising this form of action. One of the most interesting of such ‘failed’ initiatives was a call for an international art strike

in The ABC of the projectariat
Kuba Szreder

wrote about the autonomous fields of art from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (Bourdieu 1996 ). Symbolic capital is a field-specific token of reputation and an embodied capacity to make future gains (→ C is for capital ). Symbolic capital, according to Bourdieu, is based – at least superficially – on giving up direct material benefits. Artists were expected to make art for the love of art (→ A is for Artyzol ). Money came into this equation, but at later stages, and often mystified by the topsy-turvy economy of the art market where art-things cost a lot

in The ABC of the projectariat
Kuba Szreder

. Bohemians and artists, according to romantic mythos – with strong Christian underpinnings – are like ‘the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns’ (Matthew 6:26). As a matter of fact, they are not fed by a heavenly father, but rather by inheritance, relatives, side jobs, academic positions or – much more rarely – by commissions or the art market. More often than not they are expected to sustain themselves on the fumes of → Artyzol . The point of using the notion of the art worker is to debunk these assumptions, advocating for

in The ABC of the projectariat