Last Thursday I hoped to seek insights into sustaining a practice at the a-n Assembly event in Leeds.
Artists were separated into small groups to participate in small discussions. I met with a curator from Tetley and a lady that works at Castlefield gallery in Manchester.
The first discussion was Care. I have absolutely no idea how to keep practising whilst trying to keep everything else going on an absolute pittance of an income, and the question of slavery is still ringing in my mind for anyone that thinks I can just keep working for free.
There was a question of how to make all the work visible, and the results of a poll about all the extra work freelancers do.
And the consensus is to stop doing so much, take time out. But of course there’s no one to take over when things get too much for me.
For me, the most useful information was to be reminded to apply for Access costs in my current Arts Council grant application.
The separation of work and home is harder when you work from home, and then others appear and say they want to start a studio group, get rate relief and charge a lower amount. Any amount is too much for me, as no one is paying me for my time.
Let me be absolutely clear on this. Without any funding or other additional income I cannot even contemplate making any more work.
Absolutely not. I am not a slave for anyone else’s career goals.
There was a session in the kitchen. All the artists were expected to contribute to making the evening meal. So it wasn’t actually free, it was made with free labour. Of course, asked to pick tomatoes from the vine, my thoughts turned to all the poor, sorry farmers in South Lincolnshire, whose supply of cheap labour has dwindled since Brexit now that all the migrant workers have diminished or gone, and an image of an old Brexiteer marshalling artists to slave away in the fields, instead of producing any artwork, appeared in my head in dystopian awareness.
After all, food preparation used to be Mum’s job, for which she got paid properly to do.
I used to get paid to be a waitress, but I was forced to quit that work many years ago, mainly because it was soul destroying, and I now have the burden of three times the washing up at home, as I have two sons that refuse to do it. Therefore, I hate the washing up. When I arrived home, they had made themselves food and sure enough, there was a whole bowlful of dirty plates.
If it were a business dinner, we would have caterers to prepare the food, and the labour would be deferred to others, thus providing non-artists with work too.
There would most likely be a dishwasher.
In the later discussion about sustainability, it seems other artists have had the same conversation with lecturers that half joke that artists will always be poor.
I’m sorry, but it’s wholly unacceptable. My mention of Article 27 of the Human Rights Act brought nothing but silence.
This morning’s reading this article. There must be countless carers out there to whom the same issues apply. One thing’s for sure, things need to change, and change now.