Panel One: Collectivity, Labour, Value and Social Reproduction

Monday 31 October, 7pm GMT

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Discussants: Fabiola Fiocco, Katja Praznik, Karolina Majewska-Güde, Kirsten Lloyd, Jelena Vesić

Moderator: Lina Dzuverovic

Keywords: collaboration, collectives, social reproduction, value, gendered labour, affective labour, sacrificial labour, arts administration, bureaucracy. 

BIRMAC and Art Monthly, in association with Electra present:

One of four discussions within the research project  ‘And Others: The Gendered Politics and Practices of Art Collectives’ which investigates different questions central to collective work. Building on two months of asynchronous collective writing, involving seventeen participants, the panelists below consider how we might write, think, read and practice together through other means.

This panel focuses on labour and value in collective work, acknowledging that even in most progressive artists’ groups, collectives, or communities, collectivity rests on some form of socially reproductive, affective and often unremunerated labour—most often performed by female-identifying collective members, friends, partners, mothers, administrators or curators. Of course, these reliances are not strictly gendered—and are always situated, depending on many intersecting factors such as class, race, access, mobility, economic status, education, stage of life/work, experience, as well as on characteristics that are more difficult to define and write about, such as personality traits, confidence, ‘charisma’, etc (all of which are entangled with the above-listed social conditions). 

What does ‘work’ mean within a collective structure; does one notion of work differ from ‘artwork’, and if so how?  Emerging from this question is also the issue of the relationship between life and work, as collectivity is often imagined as a broader framework within which being an artist means more than just being a production machine, with groups and collectives aiming to create an alternative to the pressures of production, representation, visibility, and to actively resist co-option. What kind of labour counts as artistic work, who enacts this labour, and how can we account for all the activities within a collective that are necessary to prop up the narrowly defined process of art-making?  How might we reconfigure how labour normally classified as ‘support work’ is valued, or propose expansions of what we see as an artwork? 

In addition to questions of marginalisation (excluded or marginalised participants being a symptom, not the cause), the panelists consider conceptualisations of collectivity itself, given that collectives often inadvertently reproduce the embedded social inequalities characterising the heteropatriarchal systems within which they exist. Both the public panel and the preceding conversation address the multiple roles at work within this shifting labour, including the maintenance and preservation of archives, and how this pertains to notions of legacy and historicisation. 

The panel conversation will be followed by an informal Q&A with the audience.  

Please note all events within this series will be recorded.


Fabiola Fiocco

Fabiola Fiocco is a researcher, curator, and organiser. Currently, she is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie PhD fellow at the University of Edinburgh, with a research project on gender and labour in the curating and production of socially engaged art and independent instituting. She holds an MA in Museology from the Reinwardt Academie in Amsterdam and an MA in Art History from Roma Tre University in Rome. She previously obtained a BA in Arts Management from Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. As part of her academic and curatorial practice, she has focused on art and activism, feminism and biopolitics, and on the sociopolitical agency of the contemporary art museum. She has worked in independent art spaces, museums, and foundations – both in Italy and abroad – and collaborated with various online magazines. She is a founding member of [AWI] – Art Workers Italia. 

Kirsten Lloyd

Kirsten Lloyd is a Senior Lecturer in Curatorial Theory and Practice at The University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on late 20th and 21st art and mediation, including lens-based practice, participatory work and realism. She is a Research Fellow with the ‘Feminism, Art, Maintenance’ (2019 – 2022) project, funded by the Swedish Research Council, and the Academic Lead for the University’s Contemporary Art Research Collection. Recent publications include ‘Art, Life and Capitalist Social Reproduction: Curating Social Practice’ in the Journal of Curatorial Studies (2021). Kirsten is currently working on the collaborative exhibition and research project Life Support: Forms of Care in Art and Activism with Glasgow Women’s Library and a book called Contemporary Art and Capitalist Life.  

Katja Praznik

Katja Praznik is associate professor at the University at Buffalo’s Arts Management Program/Department of Media Study. She is the author of Art Work: Invisible Labor and the Legacy of Yugoslav Socialism (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2021), and The Paradox of Unpaid Artistic Labor (Ljubljana: Sophia, 2016). Her research focuses on labour issues in the arts during the demise of the welfare-state regimes, and has been published in various academic journals, such as Social TextHistorical Materialism, and KPY Cultural Policy Yearbook, and in edited volumes. Before moving to the United States, she worked as a freelance cultural worker in the Slovenian independent art scene. She was the editor-in-chief of the journal Maska and was engaged in the struggles for improving working conditions of art workers at Društvo Asociacija.

Karolina Majewska Güde

Karolina Majewska-Güde, PhD, is a researcher, art historian, and curator. Her research focuses on the East Central European neo-avant-gardes, feminist epistemologies, performance art, contemporary issues of circulation, translation and knowledges production through art-based research. She works closely with feminist artists of different generations, which is linked to her work on rethinking an artistic archive as a place of collaboration and maintenance where reproductive and creative work are intertwined. Majewska-Güde is a founding member of the research collective pisze/mówi/robi, which combines performative and interpretative research and is dedicated to curating exhibitions and workshops focused on artistic research practices and artistic archives. She has co-curated several exhibitions and contributed to publications focused on art from post-socialist Europe such as ArtMargins, Post MoMA: Notes on Art in a Global Context. She currently teaches at the Institute for Art and Visual History at Humboldt University. Majewska-Güde recently published “Ewa Partum’s Artistic Practice. An Atlas of Continuity in Different Locations” (Transcript, 2021). Her current research includes projects Liquid Connection: Re-thinking Hydro-socialist and Land Art Practices located at the intersection of transnational art history of former socialist Europe and feminist new materialisms and several artistic research collaborations focused on rethinking regional cultural history from a gendered perspective. Majewska-Güde is a member of AICA. She lives and works in Berlin.

Jelena Vesić

Jelena Vesić (PhD) is an independent curator, writer, and lecturer, based in Belgrade and working internationally. She holds MA in Art History, Faculty of Philosophy – Belgrade; she attendeed Curatorial Training program, De Appel – Amsterdam; holds PhD in Theory of Arts and Media, University of Arts – Belgrade; conducted Post-PhD research – Postcolonial Constellations (initiated by Okwui Enwezor), Haus der Kunst, Munich and Sharjah Art Foundation. She is engaged in the field of publishing, research, and an exhibition practice that intertwines political theory and contemporary art. She was co-editor of Prelom: Journal of Images and Politics (2001–2010, Belgrade) and currently is a co-editor of Red Thread Journal (Istanbul), a member of the editorial board of ARTMargins (MIT Press) and a member of advisory board of Mezosfera (Budapest). Jelena Vesic curated many exhibitions, in which she often experimented with frameworks, methodologies, contextual and collaborative aspects of curatorial practice. Her recent curatorial projects include Story on Copy (Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart) and We are Family (w. Nataša Ilić, Pawilion, Poznan). Her coming exhibition In Collectivising, Five Stories (Moderna Galerija, Ljubljana, September 2022) deals with the feminist interventions into the art historical narration on avant-garde art collectives of the XX century. Vesic curated large exhibition projects such as Lecture Performance (w. Anja Nathan-Dorn and Kathrin Jentjens, produced by Kölnischer Kunstverein and Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade) as well as the collective researchproject Political Practices of (Post-) Yugoslav Art, which critically examined art historical concepts and narratives on Yugoslav art after the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Jelena Vesic has published a number of essays and studies on curatorial practice, art historical methodology, exhibition history, and the politics of display. Her book On Neutrality (w. Vladimir Jerić Vlidi and Rachel O’Reilly) is part of the edition of Non-Aligned Modernity. Vesić’s recent editorial and writing projects include the Red Thread #5: Alt-Truths and Insta-Realities: The Psychopolitics of Contemporary Right (w. Vladimir Jerić Vlidi), Feminist Takes: Early Works by Želimir Žilnik (w. Antonia Majaca – the initiator of the project, and Rachel O’Reilly, Sternberg Press, 2021) and the book Yugoslav Art Space Inside and Beyond: Ješa Denegri in First Person (w. Branislav Dimitrijevic, JRP, tbp, Autumn 2022).