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Getting Organised

By: Emily Speed

Advocating better working conditions for artists. Following on from where 'Getting Paid' left off.

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Odds Against Tomorrow at Bearspace Gallery.

Odds Against Tomorrow at Bearspace Gallery.

# 14 [20 December 2011]

Thanks to everyone who voted for AIR council - I'm very happy indeed to be on board.

I saw this 'opportunity' on twitter today via Lizzie Hughes:


So, the rough facts:

"BEARSPACE is at the centre of the rapidly growing art scene in South East London, providing a platform to show, encourage and promote emerging artists in London. Director Julia Alvarez curates independently, including the Wimbledon MA interim exhibition, Deptford X 10th Anniversary & Play, a survey of play in contemporary art.   


Bearspace invites artists of all disciplines to apply for this unique opportunity, with a brief statement, c.v., and 3 images of work to be considered for selection, of which 1 to 3 pieces may be selected for exhibition. Applying is free of charge with a £200 charge if artist is successful, to cover costs including administration, gallery staff and PR over this period.  Please note these costs have been highly subsidised by BEARSPACE to support emerging artists aside from our usual programme."


1) This always seemed like a good and credible space. I am confused by this.

2) Targeting emerging artists seems like the easiest and most cynical option - they might be naive and eager enough to find the cash.

3) They should be more honest and offer the space FOR HIRE rather than promoting this as a supported opportunity.

4) This may be heavily subsidised, as they say, however, the gallery should still offer support to help the artist fundraise the cost if they genuinely couldn't find it themselves.

5) If it is so heavily subsidised (support in kind no doubt), why could they not find the last £200? Seems odd.

6) In some ways, having an open call and only charging the successful artist is fairer, but it's not an amount that most people have spare, and it's not cool.

7) How are artists expected to make new work and do it well if they have to pay for their wn time/production as well as the fee.

8) Surely a good and mixed programme would include emerging and more established artists anyway? Why is them supporting 'emerging artists aside from our usual programme' such a special thing to do?

I just don't like this one bit.

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Comments on this post

Thanks Jo and Susan for your comments. While I do see the point about it being vanity publishing (something which also happens in music - bands hiring venues, putting out own music etc), it's the fact that it is wrapped up as an opportunity that I don't like. I noticed the intern situation too Jo, and I never thought about it as her vanity project, good point! Now I come to think of it, I know and have been involved with several projects where independent curators have raised funding and paid themselves a wage and provided no production/materials/travel/fee to the artists... hmmmm. Well, let's just steer clear shall we!

posted on 2011-12-22 by Emily Speed

Also - as I noted already on the Facebook discussion about this - this gallery is staffed entirely by interns; only the "Director/Curator", Julia Alvarez, is listed as non-intern staff. This indicates that she draws an income from the gallery... So I presume that the "gallery staffing costs" indicated in the lengthy justification for the £200 fee will be mostly her own costs (I say "mostly" in the hopeful assumption that she does the right thing and pays her interns' expenses). Are artists therefore subsidising part of her wage? Is Bearspace a vanity project for Alvarez? If she needs to charge 20 artists £200 each (a total of £4000) in order to mount a show, is Bearspace actually as successful (in cold, hard commercial terms) as it seems to claim to be? Will there also be commission on sales? Barring the discovery of new information (e.g. for the duration of the project, the artists will be served Michelin-starred dinner off solid gold plates at every meal & will have their windows cleaned by big-name dealers & collectors etc. etc.), my final diagnosis is that this is fantastically, offensively rotten. In the meantime, I'll be making sure to steer clear of Bearspace/Alvarez...

posted on 2011-12-21 by Jo Moore

I'd dispute its similarity to vanity publishing as this "opportunity" dangles the carrot of big bucks with all the references to targeted marketing & "major art collectors" etc. etc. And, as well, I'd say that gallery hire or artist-led activity are probably the most analogous to the model of vanity publishing outlined by Susan below. (And, anecdotally, the few vanity-published writers I've met were people who were desperately hoping for their big break but hadn't been able to catch it from publishers; in one case I can confirm that it's because the work really wasn't up to scratch, but in the others it seemed that they'd been given positive feedback from agents and publishers but were ultimately told that nobody was willing to take a punt on a good book that didn't have a TV tie-in or wasn't authored by a celebrity. Makes you realise how minuscule budgets for new fiction/new writers must be these days.)

posted on 2011-12-21 by Jo Moore

Isn't this opportunity similar to 'vanity publishing' offers for new books? I have a relative who has successfully published 2 books (on very specialist topics) who pays for the editorial support and publishing costs, undertakes their own marketing (although books are included in the publisher's list distributions) and handles their own "market development". My relative doesn't expect to make money (or cover costs) but wants the satisfaction of producing their work in print and getting feedback from people who buy/see the books. As part of researching a talk on oversupply of artists (and art) I interviewed a Director of a contemporary writing agency. She confirmed that although more titles are printed nowdays each title sells fewer copies. Is this the same for visual artists?

posted on 2011-12-21 by Susan Jones

I agree. Your situation does sound a little questionable too - I'm guessing there are other benefits to the show, otherwise can't imagine you'd be doing it! Your friend's place in Shanghai sounds impressive and very generous - glad someone isn't charging their artists! Essentially it boils down to hiring a gallery - I wish they'd just say that instead of skirting around the issue.

posted on 2011-12-20 by Emily Speed

simples. musicians should never pay to play, artists should never pay to show. (unless of course you happen to be doing all the work and keeping all the takings). I have a good friend in China running a contemporary art gallery, supporting ground-breaking artists and showing largely un-commercial, mostly western work, yet he manages to pull this off through sponsorship for the opening nights. All this without any arts funding, with commercial rents and wages and has been going for over 5 years now. If he can do that in Shanghai, there is no reason ever to charge artists for showing work over here. and there was me feeling uncomfortable about showing in an exhibition which doesn't pay exhibitors fees, barely covers the curator's expenses, and yet charges entrance fee with over 2,000 visitors a month, takes 50% +vat o sales, and high turnover in the shop. still, yours trumps me!

posted on 2011-12-20 by Steve Messam

# 13 [15 December 2011]

I saw this today and wanted to share it:

It's a funny/deadly serious response to an interview that appeared in Vogue relating to internships. What struck me most was that the designer - who uses interns - defends the fact with the line that it is 'normal' in fashion. I think that hits the nail on the head for most internships; people just think it is normal, that they have to work for free to get on, and the plentiful supply of willing volunteers continues.

Forget what's normal - there IS a minimum wage, it's taking advantage to have interns for nothing for so long, you don't have to do it and what's more, you can write and tell people exactly what's wrong with the situation so they can't plead ignorance.

On that note - regarding writing to people to tell them how things could be, I also wanted to share an email an artist sent following an open call.


The artist's question: is there a fee/production/travel materials project for this open call that requires a site visit and site-specific work?

From the gallery:

Dear artist, 

Thank you very much for your enquiry! Unfortunately our project does not have a budget for travel and production of artwork, which we expect the artists themseleves cover the cost. However, we will cover all the installation, techinical support, electricity supply and promotion cost.   Please see attached with the full brief to get more information. Hope you will participate in our exhibition!   


From the artist:


Thank you very much for your response. I was interested to read the project brief; it really does sound like a wonderful project.  However, it seems that you are looking for work that responds to the specific site or context (and I prefer to work context-responsively anyway), and I am afraid that without financial support it would be impossible for me to undertake site visits, produce new work for the show and continue to pay my rent and bills!  Having worked for cultural and academic organisations in the past, I really do appreciate that budgets are tight; however, contemporary artists do need at least some remuneration for the work that they do and the time that they spend doing it.  As an experienced artist and commissioner, I can say that it is not usual for contemporary artists to have to pay for electricity supplies or tech support in venues where they exhibit, and so this is not usually factored in as support in kind.
I wonder if you are aware of the Arts Council's Grants for the Arts scheme? This scheme enables individuals and organisations from all backgrounds to apply for small-to-medium grants towards engaging artistic projects in England.  I have used this scheme myself to enable me to pay artists for their work on various projects, and it is incredibly helpful and accessible.  The Arts Council are very keen to support and promote the idea that everybody should be paid for their work; in their view (with which I agree), even the smallest amount of investment produces better artwork - and therefore better outcomes for everybody involved.  I am sure that, if you wish to work with contemporary artists in the future, the Arts Council would be very interested to support a project that uses contemporary art to engage people not just with art, but with history, too.  Here is a link, which I hope will be helpful to you in the future: Again, it is with regret that I cannot submit a proposal for consideration.  I wish you the best of luck and every success with the project.

Perhaps this is a good template to send out next time you find yourself in this situation? Round of applause.

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I should totally name & fame shouldn't I? Going to check with the individual first :) better than naming & shaming any day.

posted on 2011-12-15 by Emily Speed

Absolutely! A fantastic template to send out - I'd use it! Well done and a round of applause indeed to the artist who wrote it.

posted on 2011-12-15 by Kate Murdoch

# 12 [12 December 2011]


This year I got shortlisted for a commission and a residency that ended up being awarded to 1) a social enterprise and b) a design agency. They were small/medium to large things – between 2 – 12k, so substantial projects, but not in the intimidating (for me) leagues of some public art budgets. After writing about the Olympic ‘Taking the Lead’ commissions earlier in the year I noticed that a large chunk of those went to production companies and very few to individual artists, which led me to wonder why.

Some ideas about why this may be:

Artists don’t apply in large numbers for really large scale projects as individuals. I am making presumptions and drawing parallels with Dany Louise’s report on arts funding and her findings that many artists simply aren’t applying for funding. Individual artists may lack experience and presume they aren’t able to handle a large commission, especially if they feel they don’t know what it involves.

The work is of a scale that it requires more than one person. Like when artists start having work made for them to keep up with the demand or ambition of the work.

Commissioners are nervous, money is tight. A production company or group of artists possibly represent; experience, ability to handle a large commissions (strength in numbers), something different (hybrid of art/music/technology).

Production companies have paid staff (sometimes) and are able to put together a more impressive tender. Design aspects of companies might mean ideas are more resolved, communicated more easily, are less esoteric and therefore more likely (in the commissioner's eyes) to appeal to  wider public than work of one artist.

My question – in increasingly lean times, are artists going to find it even harder to get paid work on offer if they're tendering against well organised, experienced groups and businesses? This may be especially true for recent graduates who'll have less opportunity to gain experience and will lack the track record that commissioners want to see. Maybe artists need to adopt strategies used by larger outfits and utilise those strengths for themselves. This doesn’t necessarily mean working in collaboration, but strong communication and a confidence in what you’re offering. Taking a brief and making it into your project, negotiating the terms until you are happy.

All things that we artists should be doing, but that have more emphasis placed on them in a design education.

I know some will be reading this and are immediately dismissing public commissions, but you should apply and make them what you think they can be. Negotiating – as far as you can – so you can work on your own terms.

Owl Project

Sans Façon

Interview with Shauna Richardson:

Artist’s Olympic Commissions in a-n

Those Olympic facts:

East: On Landguard Point – Pacitti Company

East Midlands – Lionheart - Shauna Richardson (individual artist)

London – Bus Tops – 2 lead artists + 4 staff + 2 interns

North east – Flow -  Owl Project (3 artists) and Ed Carter (musician and arts producer)

North West – Column - Anthony McCall (individual artist working in NY with a production team)

South East – Boat Project – Lone Twin (performance company)

South West – Nowhere Island – Alex Hartlet (individual artist with expedition team)

West Midlands – Godiva Awakes – Imagineer Productions (producers of large-scale outdoor events/ carnivals/theatre.)

Yorkshire – Leeds Canvas – partnership between Opera North, Northern Ballet Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Phoenix Dance Theatre, Yorkshire Dance, Leeds Met Gallery and Studio Theatre, Situation Leeds, Leeds City Council, and Leeds Art Gallery - Quay Brothers as lead artists. This one utterly baffles me in terms of ‘Artists Taking the Lead’

Northern Ireland – Nest – Dumbworld Ltd (production company) – They’re currently advertising for a project Manager in case anyone’s interested!

Scotland – Forest Pitch – Craig Coulthard (individual artist)

Wales – Adain Avion - Marc Rees under production company R.I.P.E (Rees International Projects Enterprise)

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Rob, you make a good point about the personal development side of working with different people on projects. It is good for you I think to work that way where the work permits. I don't think a studio to bring those in house is necessarily a goal most artists should, or want to aim for. However, to get back to the original point, for some this makes sense - certainly if you are in the business of very large - 500k even - commissions. Obviously it comes with all manner of sustainability issues, but i guess if you have reached that point in your career, it may be less of an issue. I know a few artists who work that way and they will all tell you how if frees them up creatively to concentrate on the stuff they do best. For the record Rob, although I strive towards achieving a Bjork, I'm quite happy being the Travelling Wilberries! As for the 'art-speak' or plain talking issue, I think this is a whole new topic. Sure, it's something peculiar to artists it seems - designers and architects, musicians, photographers, film makers and the like don't seem to find it as big an issue. Not sure why. However, this all goes to show how important it is that artists get themselves the skills to converse and present themselves in a professional manner if they want to compete on levels terms - and it's entirely right that they are seen to be this way isn't it?. If, on the other hand, it's a case of commissioners not responding or handling your proposal in an equally professional manner, then, again that's another issue which I think needs bearing in mind and has been discussed before by Emily. Anyway, good post Emily. fair points all round!

posted on 2011-12-13 by Steve Messam

hello Steve, what you say is absolutley true and I hope is of encouragement to many artists reading this. How hard it is to write coherently and verbalise thought process? Well, this is a grey and personal and artists development organisations I think would get good responces for sessions in this area. The 'studio/prodution company' approach as the goal can be a double edged sword, because from a personal development perspective I have really enjoyed the temporary working partnerships formed on project delivery. And the downside of such an organisation is the creation of a monster that needs feeding: whereby the need to sustain income levels is high and winning new business becomes all important to the detriment of the output. As I grow older steve the somehow the personel devopment gained from projects becomes more important. I guess there are two models; 1 your part of a super group say like, Fleetwood Mac and its interesting how the influences change over time and the work develops....or 2 its like a Robert Plant model where the set up is always fluid and everchanging? there a model no.3? Better stop meandering off and focus on what I should be doing.

posted on 2011-12-13 by Rob Turner

I’m really interested in this debate around the ‘arty bollocks’ as opposed to ‘putting it straight’ approach. I think putting it in plain terms while encapsulating what an artist can bring to a project requires the artist to be just as articulate, if not more so. I find the abilty to communicate in artwork actually does often spill over into language and in a hugely competitve field, unfortunately, those who can do both inevitably fare better. Art is inherently ambiguous, often raising questions rather than answers, and I wonder therefore are commissioners really looking for artists at all? I recently submitted a proposal which met a hugely ambitious and long list of requested criteria, requiring a considerable amount of work, and although it did go to an individual, I didn’t even get an email confirming they had received it, or one to say I’d been unsuccessful.

posted on 2011-12-13 by Susan Francis

Hi Rob, While I agree that the reason most of us are visual artists is because its our way of communicating, and that for many, writing things eloquently is not our natural strength. However, I disagree to some level that this can hinder artists ability to secure commissions. Most commissions are based on vision and track record. I think most commissioners outside of the fine art world are immune to standard arts bollocks and just want it given straight. Maybe it's the ability to just be straight that many artists need to work on. I have commissioned a number of artists in the past and have seen so much nonsense waffle on artists websites and it's clear that the ones who succeed are the ones who don't try too hard on the written stuff but speak volumes visually with their work. Same goes with funding applications. It's more a case of following the instructions and just making it really clear, in SIMPLE TERMS, what they want to do. OK, so if it really is a struggle to write simply and clearly, then artists should look to out-source those skills elsewhere, just as they would with fabricators, printers, photographers etc. It's all part of the professional practice. And when you get to a point when you are outsourcing all the time, then it's time to bring those skills inhouse, and 'ping!', you have a studio / production company. Just an observation...

posted on 2011-12-13 by Steve Messam

Hi Emily, Susan and Steve Messam, Artists do have to compete on paper using proposals and writen explanations of their approaches and working process. They have to be elequant on their reasons for wanting work. They also have to indicate measures for evaluation and sucess. And other writen stuff. I think artists are often artists because the writen word and document structuring are not their main skill. Artists skills are more probably, practical, social, visionary and intuative and plus more other skills. And the reason that they are artists is that they have ideas about making and engaging with stuff, but structuring them in words in coherent reports and poposals is the reason they did not follow the office based work model. Commissioners often follow a points scoring system based on writen responses to their agendas. The result is often awarded to the organisation who has the best prosposal writer, the best performance and evaluation techniques, rather than the people who have creative and engaging ideas. I hope commissioners realise this.

posted on 2011-12-13 by Rob Turner

I think for some of this you've probably answered your questions. Particularly for big public commissions, there is strength in working with or being part of an established team. It happens a lot more in some of the other 'creative' industries. And this is where I think artists tend to fall down. When dealing with commissioners outside the small art commission sphere, you have to work on the same professional level as architects, service designers, film production companies and the like. It's something that designers learn at an early stage, but seems to be lacking in so many artists. It's no good hoping commissioners will consider your application in any different way to a more established outfit. It's just not going to happen like that. What artists need to do in those circumstances is up their game. Push that bit harder. Yes, it requires more work, but again, designers and architects do that all the time. Why should it be different for artists? Individual artists do get these commissions. Of course you can get them if you put in the hours. I agree, that on occasions it would be good practice to get a fee for delivering proposals from a short-listed status, particularly if a degree of detail is required. Another way to look at this, as architects do, is to accept that an element of your practice will involve drawing up speculative proposals, and factor that into your daily rate over the year. As for 'production companies' having an advantage over individual artists for 12k projects - at that level I doubt it makes much economic sense for them to do a lot of work to pitch for them, so I think individual artists are probably on a level par for these. In which case, it's the standard 'best' person for the job. Which, obviously isn't always the case. But that's another story....

posted on 2011-12-12 by Steve Messam

I can imagine that international remit is a bit overwhelming as an individual Susan - especially when the preliminary work is an unpaid gamble!

posted on 2011-12-12 by Emily Speed

..........actually, when I said 'imaginative' proposal I meant imaginative in the way I will cope with structuring the project as an individual as opposed to a team etc ie. something I was asked to apply for recently involved engaging groups in seperate two countries, I felt to compete with the other organisations just required too much investment at the proposal stage

posted on 2011-12-12 by Susan Francis

It's also (only!) just occurred to me that this is the equivalent of entry level jobs being filled by people with years of experience.... maybe an inevitable result of funding cuts? SO many questions...

posted on 2011-12-12 by Emily Speed

Perhaps this goes back to commissioning process - which should be paid at a shortlisted stage - and organisations asking for too much work in initial proposals and expressions of interest?

posted on 2011-12-12 by Emily Speed

Glad you've highlighted this Emily as I know I've been put off applying recently for certain larger commissions within areas that I am well experienced in, purely because the work entailed to put the proposal together seems too daunting. This is largely because, to compete as an individual against group organisations and make sure I can meet all the requirements leading the project by myself, I need to compile a really well thought through, imaginative and detailed proposal, which, when I feel I am off at a disadvantage from the word go, is a lot of unpaid time and energy to invest.

posted on 2011-12-12 by Susan Francis

Something I couldn't fit in the post! I'm not trying to say production companies and design agencies are evil for trying to steal artists' work - commissions are open. I just hope that commissioners can be brave in their decision making and recognise that even small-scale commissions can make a huge difference to an artists' career, whereas they may be one of many jobs that a company can work on at any one time. It probably requires more work on their part to support an individual artist, especially one without too much experience, but impact is incredibly important and should be part of the remit of any good arts organisation.

posted on 2011-12-12 by Emily Speed

# 11 [30 November 2011]

The Guardian Culture Professionals Network is hosting a live chat on internships this Friday:

This seems to be a reaction to the ACE advice on internships as well as the recent unemployment statistics.

Milica Lewis (@Lionartprojects on twitter) sent me this link to a blog post about internships - in favour of them - earlier on twitter. It's great to read about her positive experience, but I can't help feeling that applying that good faith to all internships is a bit simplistic.

Besides art organisations there are also commercial galleries, auction houses and other profit making ventures that use interns, not to mention other creative areas such as magazines, television and so on. She's 'not saying this is an ideal situation, but ... I feel it is simply reality for (much of) the arts at the moment' - I can see that small, unfunded arts organisations might be struggling to pay interns, but other areas are not, so it's not about stopping internships, but about making sure they are monitored better and that interns are getting a great experience.

Should be interested. No doubt I'll have a question or two!

# 10 [30 November 2011]

Watching the strikes with interest (online) today. I just thought I would repeat something my husband said last night. He has an eviable ability to see all sides of things and be extremely level headed and articulate in discussion. I wish I could say the same about myself!

In conversation, his mum was saying she didn't see why the nurses deserved great pensions when other - private sector - workers didn't get the same. She's not against nurses per se, but from a personal point of view, with a husband who receives bugger-all pension, she struggles with it.

Dan turned it around and asked whether she couldn't see it from the other point of view; it's not bad that the nurses get more than some people, but it's great that nurses get that, and it would be better if everyone else did too. I guess he's pointing out that the annoyance is misdirected, and that it's not strikers that are at fault but the massive imbalance of wealth. Maybe that sounds obvious to everyone else - but it made me think.

Same with artists? Frustration shouldn't be directed at other artists but to somewhere more constructive, like getting stuck in and finding ways to improve things. Wise owl. I shall keep taking notes from him...

# 9 [29 November 2011]

AIR Council elections are open so please make sure you vote if you're an AIR member. My email from Popularis went to my junk mail so do check if you don't think you've had one yet.

Also - ahem - I'm nominated for it and would really appreciate your vote :D

You can read a bit about all the candidates here:

# 8 [28 November 2011]

This looks interesting, ACE have published a guide for organisations on internships with Creative Cultural Skills.

Recommendations include: an open, transparent and fair recruitment process

Internships being well planned and based on a wider internship and equal opportunities policy

Offering meaningful experiences and responsibilities that contribute to the aims of the organisation

and especially this *** Paying interns at least national minimum wage*****

# 7 [27 November 2011]

This open letter to artists was written by Sara Wookey, a dancer, after she auditioned for Marina Abramovich at MoMA L.A. It's been doing the rounds on twitter and facebook, so apolgies if you've already seen it.

In it she describes what was wrong with the working condiditons offered and why it was she refused to participate.

"Artists of all disciplines deserve fair and equal treatment and can organize if we care enough to put the effort into it. I would rather be the face of the outspoken artist then the silenced, slowly rotating head (or, worse, “centerpiece”) at the table. I want a voice, loud and clear."

I think it's amazingly clear message about everything that is wrong with accepting bad working conditions whilst also acknowledging that artists often feel forced to accept work on other people's terms. The last paragraph is just ace.

"I rejected the offer to work with Abramović and MOCA—to participate in perpetuating unethical, exploitative and discriminatory labor practices—with my community in mind. It has moved me to work towards the establishment of ethical standards, labor rights and equal pay for artists, especially dancers, who tend to be some of the lowest paid artists.

The time has come for artists in Los Angeles and elsewhere to unite, organize, and work toward changing the degenerate discrepancies between the wealthy and powerful funders of art and the artists, mainly poor, who are at its service and are expected to provide so-called avant-garde, prescient content or “entertainment,” as is increasingly the case—what is nonetheless merchandise in the service of money. We must do this not because of what happened at MOCA but in response to a greater need (painfully demonstrated by the events at MOCA) for equity and justice for cultural workers.

I am not judging my colleagues who accepted their roles in this work and I, too, am vulnerable to the cult of charisma surrounding celebrity artists. I am judging, rather, the current social, cultural, and economic conditions that have rendered the exploitation of cultural workers commonplace, natural, and even horrifically banal, whether its perpetrated by entities such as MOCA and Abramović or self-imposed by the artists themselves.

I want to suggest another mode of thinking: When we, as artists, accept or reject work, when we participate in the making of a work, even (or perhaps especially) when it is not our own, we contribute to the establishment of standards and precedents for our cohort and all who will come after us."

Add: This article highlights how Yvonne Rainer also got involved with the Abramovic situation.

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Hi Sam, Thanks very much for taking time to read my blog! Glad you're finding it useful - that's always nice to know. The full working conditions she says were this - "I was expected to lie naked and speechless on a slowly rotating table, starting from before guests arrived and lasting until after they left (a total of nearly four hours. I was expected to ignore (by staying in what Abramović refers to as “performance mode”) any potential physical or verbal harassment while performing. I was expected to commit to fifteen hours of rehearsal time, and sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement stating that if I spoke to anyone about what happened in the audition I was liable for being sued by Bounce Events, Marketing, Inc., the event’s producer, for a sum of $1 million dollars plus attorney fees. I was to be paid $150. During the audition, there was no mention of safeguards, signs, or signals for performers in distress, and when I asked about what protection would be provided I was told it could not be guaranteed. What I experienced as an auditionee for this work was extremely problematic, exploitative, and potentially abusive."

posted on 2011-12-18 by Emily Speed

Hi Emily, The information on your blog is fascinating, and invaluable, especially to those of us just starting out and thinking about our future careers in Fine Art. With reference to what you've mentioned here, I'd be interested to know what the expected working conditions were that Sara Wookey was objecting to.

posted on 2011-12-17 by Sam Brightwell

# 6 [25 November 2011]

This is a section from a press release by Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda

Who feeds the artist ?

"1000 euros a month is not much to live off. Often less than the minimum wage. But most artists, and not only the young ones at the early stages of their career, have to do so. Half the fine artists in the UK, half the "professional" authors in Germany, and, I am told, an incredible 97.5% of one of the biggest collecting society's members in Europe, receive less than that paltry payment of 1000 euros a month for their copyright works. Of course, the best-paid in this sector earn a lot, and well done to them. But at the bottom of the pyramid are a whole mass of people who need independent means or a second job just to survive.

This is a devastatingly hard way to earn a living. The crisis will only make this worse, as public and private spending on arts, so often seen as discretionary, feels the squeeze. This must be a worry to one of the most valuable and unique sectors in Europe: it is certainly a worry to me.

We need to go back to basics and put the artist at the centre, not only of copyright law, but of our whole policy on culture and growth. In times of change, we need creativity, out-of-the-box thinking: creative art to overcome this difficult period and creative business models to monetise the art. And for this we need flexibility in the system, not the straitjacket of a single model. The platforms, channels and business models by which content is produced, distributed and used can be as varied and innovative as the content itself."

# 5 [25 November 2011]

Feeling the love.

Twitter is my favourite at the moment. I talk a lot of rubbish but occasionally, really great discussion breaks out and people share things you perhaps wouldn't expect. I'm @speedina if you're not on there already.

Yesterday I was chatting with @rougeit and others about working to commission. He asked "Artists question: should artists ask for references before accepting commissions? #artists #artsfunding"

So the idea of asking employers for references was put out there - the artist is checked out (curators talk too) but it's a bit more difficult for artists to know what they're getting into. Bad commission experiences seemed to be down to lack of communication and support - perhaps because of short staffed or stretched organisations. Artists who joined in (including me) also said that they were responsible to some degree - being dazzled at interview and not asking important questions before committing to projects.

One suggestion that came out of it was the idea of giving organistions a stamp of approval. Rather than shouting about bad experiences, which seems unlikely to do the artist's reputation any good, we thought talking about good experiences would be better. Artists sharing information to save everyone some worry and potential heartache! An online list perhaps - ommissions would be very telling indeed and those really great organisations would be on there.

He nominated Oriel Davies Gallery and Lakeland Arts Trust as great people to work with. Mine were Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Blackpool Council Arts Dept/Grundy Gallery. I'm also working with the Bluecoat at the moment and the curator there has been brilliant.

Anyone else care to add a great experience/organisation here?

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Thanks Ros. It's a very good point you make about mixed experience. The place on Westbourne really has been quite unique - I've never heard of such extreme experiences from one place. I guess I didn't make the difference explicit as it seems so fundamental to me, but I class experiences with art organisations and experience while paying for a service as utterly different beasts.

posted on 2011-11-27 by Emily Speed

CoExist,, Phoenix Brighton and have all been really good for me. With that was alsways our intention. The difficulty in gold stamping is that some artists may have good experiences with some really doubtful organisations such as one in Westbourne Grove which on the whole I have heard extremely negative stories about. As a result the positives could cloak the realities of such a venture. I guess it could be a points system. Having gone to the ALISN conference about artist led organisations and worked with a lot of these spaces,they tend to be the winners, not commercial art organisations or vanity projects

posted on 2011-11-27 by Rosalind Davis

Thanks for your contributions! So nice to hear about good things. regarding financial support Tim - other things are often worth much more, as long as you feel valued and happy. Some great comments on twitter too - Bluecoat has some serious fans out there. Also mentioned; Artsway, Wysing and Cove Park.

posted on 2011-11-27 by Emily Speed

I had a positive experience with the Ovalhouse theatre, they were supportive and handled the publicity well and put me on their website. There was no financial support, but this was made clear from the start and I could not have wished for a better start to being an artist.

posted on 2011-11-25 by Tim Ridley

This is a great idea - really positive! My stand-out best experience is not a UK-based organisation (and when I think about it, they stand out mainly because of the lack of active badness), which is a bit concerning. That said, I'm not massively experienced in working with organisations, & recent experience has rather put me off applying for stuff. I am wondering, though, if organisations have a one-size-fits-all method of treating artists, or if the experience can differ depending on the individuals involved, the project specifics, etc.? An organisation that is great to one artist might conceivably be less so to another...

posted on 2011-11-25 by Jo Moore

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Emily Speed

Emily Speed is an artist based in Liverpool.