Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Unpaid hours

The following schedule is made up of a few simple blocks of time, chunked out based on where I was, physically doing some sort of work. They don't capture the layers of detail embedded in carrying out this work: the hours upon hours spent on emails and phone calls, the hundreds of kilometres driving from place to place to buy supplies or to attend meetings, the time spent thinking about how to solve problems... These blocks don't account for the time spent with loved ones because that is rarely acknowledged in professional life....

I am posting it because I am trying to take stock of how my time is spent and why I continue to be unproductive in my independent practice.

Holiday/sleep/sick/don't remember 


8:00am-6:00pm: work

7:00pm-9:00pm: Curators' Network meeting


8:30am-6:30pm: work

7:00pm-11:30pm: cdnpoli strat meeting/prep


8:30am-5:30pm: work

5:30pm-11:00pm: at cdnpoli event I organized 


9:00am-6:30pm: work

6:30pm-7:30pm: prep for cdnpoli event 

7:30pm-9:30pm: work


8:30am-3:30pm: prep/at cdnpoli event I organized 

9:00pm-9:30pm: work pick up

9:30pm-11:00pm: gallery opening 


day of rest/guilt/dngaf

Well. I'm certainly not the only one in such a situation. The idea of juggling multiple projects and working long hours to realize the things that are most important to you and your creative practice is not new. I seem to recall now an exhibition named Night Shift that featured the work of artists who worked as assistants to their established counterparts during the day, thereby leaving them only scraps of time left to pursue their own practice. One friend was resentful of this concept and didn't want their work defined in relation to "a big name" and wanted to keep their practices, and accomplishments, separate. I spent a few minutes googling for it but obviously it's not a unique concept for the arts, so exactly what I am referencing is proving difficult to dig up. 

I am also thinking about a talk presented by Marysia Lewandowska a few years ago at Prefix (you can watch it here https://vimeo.com/52038287) in which, during the q&a maybe, she advocated for a diversied revenue stream for arts workers - selling work, teaching, consulting, getting grants, being flexible, flying all over - that was how you could support yourself in such a precarious field: lots of work! But now I want to think of the films of Polish workers she spoke about as being contextualized as a form of resistance - that our time which we think of as "free" actually is not, it has value and worth, and how we choose to use those unpaid hours can be a form of resistance against a capitalist system. I have to watch her lecture again - these vague recollections are shadows of her ideas shared in Toronto four years ago.... Prefix has the best artist talks... 


What is important to note here is that, while all these endeavours I am pursuing are intellectually and professionally fulfilling, there are four key takeaways from these blocks of time:

1. Almost every day that I worked, I worked a solid 12 or more hours.  That is a 60 hour work week. I am only paid for 35, and that is solely from my employer. My overtime hours will be taken in lieu time upon approval. 

2. Productivity/economic vitality/democratic life cannot be based merely on wage-based work or monetary transactions as many creative and political work hours are unpaid. Unpaid work has value. Unpaid work is a form of resistance and the upholding of an ideal... (Also possibly only available to those who are privileged)

3. The impact of this work has been both beneficial to my intellectual development, but causes extreme depletion of my physical strength and leaves me exhausted. 

4. Exactly zero hours were spent on my independent practice. 

If I can spend mind boggling amounts of time doing work for others, when "free" time finally becomes available, why don't I use it for myself? Why do I place more value in what others pursue? Why don't I value my own work as much as someone else's? Why do I continue to support the ideas of others before my own? Why do I respond better to the demands of someone else rather than the demands I make of myself? What am I really contributing? What am I afraid of?

No comments: