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Kuba Szreder

My thinking on artistic circulation is so embedded in the collective research of the Free/Slow University of Warsaw (in short F/SUW, and in Polish Wolny Uniwersytet Warszawy ) that it deserves an entry of its own. The Free/Slow University of Warsaw was established in 2009 by a group of radicalised cultural producers (Michał Kozłowski, Janek Sowa, Bogna Świątkowska, Szymon Żydek, later joined by Joanna Figiel, and others), fed up with the pointless acceleration of artistic networks and projects. All of us were working on too many projects at

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.

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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
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Kuba Szreder

inevitably projectarians fall behind their more successful friends and colleagues, who spin around, circulating ever faster. Exclusion is defined by the lack of → projects , connections, → opportunities and → visibility . As one artist succinctly responded to the Free/Slow University of Warsaw's query: to be present you have to circulate; when you stop moving, you cease to exist. You are side-lined, voiceless and invisible. This exclusion, as Boltanski and Chiapello argue, is both a form of deprivation and a mode of exploitation embedded within a

in The ABC of the projectariat
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Kuba Szreder

dimension of their fight and plight and their capacity to establish durable alliances is weakened. The projectarians’ psyche becomes as distributed, capricious and multiplied as the projects they chase, the tendency countered by → free/slow collectives and other support structures that serve as new, better → time machines .

in The ABC of the projectariat
Kuba Szreder

’ (Critical Practice 2011 ) and ‘undercommons’ (Harney and Moten 2013 ), which have entered international debates about artistic self-organisation since the early 2000s. To add even more complexity, patainstitutionalism was framed after the concept of pataeconomy, popularised by Goldex Poldex, an anarcho-artistic cooperative from Kraków, in their inquiries into imaginative economies. Janek Sowa, a sociologist affiliated with the cooperative and an active member of the → Free/Slow University, proposed to think about this imaginary mode of self-instituting as

in The ABC of the projectariat
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Kuba Szreder

artistic studio, but rather through the totality of creative processes and social interactions that unfold in the field of art. Janek Sowa, one of the members of the → Free/Slow University of Warsaw , uses post-Marxist theory to unpick the pursuits of celebrity artists who build their own → capital by presenting ideas as if they were their own, while in fact they are always collectively created (Sowa 2014 ). As I have argued in my own analysis of the ‘cruel economy of authorship’, these privatisations are underpinned by the social conventions of

in The ABC of the projectariat
Kuba Szreder

exhibition fees (W.A.G.E. 2010 ). Similar conditions, but in European contexts, were denounced in Ireland (Falvey 2020 ), Scotland (Gordon Nesbitt 2008 ), the UK (Kinsella 2017 ), Germany (Haben und Brauchen 2012 ) and in Poland (Ilczuk et al. 2018 ; Kozłowski, Sowa and Szreder 2015 ). As evidenced by the daily observation and sociological research of the → Free/Slow University of Warsaw , people working in the artistic sectors in Poland often receive low remuneration for participating in artistic projects (Kozłowski, Sowa and Szreder 2015

in The ABC of the projectariat
Kuba Szreder

the other hand, projectarians are → entrepreneurs of the self , because projects enable them to capitalise on their skills, social connections and reputations in exchange for opportunities and other future gains. In this sense, they are owners of their own means of production, capitalising not only on themselves, but also on the labour of others. The term ‘projectariat’ is a theoretical détournement of the classical Marxist term. I owe this terminological feat to the linguistic creativity of Szymon Żydek, a friend and comrade from the → Free/Slow

in The ABC of the projectariat
Kuba Szreder

Grant art is art made for grant's sake. The term is intended as an ironic jibe at art motivated primarily by the availability of opportunities (grants, invitations and commissions) rather than any other (political, artistic, intellectual) concerns. This crack was first made by Janek Sowa to ridicule the curatorial and artistic effects of grant systems, in the first publication of the → Free/Slow University of Warsaw (Sowa 2009 ). He responded to a systemic tendency engrained in both peripheral and metropolitan systems – basically everywhere

in The ABC of the projectariat