Labor’s on the brain lately, thanks to Ben Davis’ 9.5 Theses on Art and Class and Martha Rosler’s Culture Class.
Funny thing: Reading about labor makes you start thinking about labor—including while you’re at work, for better or worse. Here are a few paradoxes of labor as an art handler/art installer:
1. “Hurry up and wait.” Art laborers’ time is expensive yet expendable. Waste is part of the process of productivity.
2. Exhibition-making is a combination of office work and gallery work; the contrast between salaried/white-collar and hourly/blue-collar workers’ valuations of time, modes of employment, and precariousness is telling.
3. Help others help you with clear directions. Experience and decisiveness are not co-developed skills.
4. If the risk of confidence in excess is egocentrism, safeguard with humility and gratitude.
5. The more powerful you are, the more tardy you can be.
always in a rush but seldom on time
—Ben McGrath, “New York Time,” New Yorker, Nov. 4, 2013