First of all, I suppose I should reflect a little and work out why there were so few financial rewards for all that work in 2008? My fault? the opportunities I said yes to? The general state of things?
The most pleasant experience had to be showing at the Bridewell Gallery. A three-person exhibition, There in Time, with a £300 fee attached and all expenses paid. Thank you very much Bridewell.
Generally, I didn't expect to get paid to take part in shows as this is pretty standard practice compensated by the fact that galleries pay for advertising, the space and all those drinks at the opening. Plus if I did make work that could be sold, exhibitions may be more lucrative.I am also very happy taking part in low-fi, alternative events and exhibitions without being paid. These are the projects that are often the most exciting and productive.
What I did object to, however, was exhibitions where additional events held alongside the show were paid when the artists were not. There was also a real lack of transparency in these situations, which only compounded the bad feeling.
My first experience of this was finding out some artists in a group show had been paid or given expenses, and others hadn't (me included). A storyteller involved in an evening event for a few hours was also paid for their time (around £180 I believe). Why was this? Quite simply because no other story-tellers would work for free, but there is a queue of artists who would.
Next – a biennial show where artists worked site-specifically for a week installing/making work. No expenses here, and certainly no fee. The bands and other entertainment doing half-hour sets at the opening of the exhibition, did get paid. So why is the hard work of the artists valued so much less than the entertainment that announces the show?
I don't really have answers yet and when I speak to my peers about these issues, the general response seems to be 'that's just the way it is'. Do we artists not bear some responsibility then for changing this situation? But how is this possible when there is so much competition…(long sigh).
Personally, 2009 will have to be for looking after myself and making sure I can pay my rent. Thus far that involves taking work at the Tate whenever possible (Information Assistant) and only applying for things that pay in accordance with recommended daily rates, or almost at least. It also means (sadly), less hours towards favours for friends and random voluntary things.
An excellent article on the subject, written by fellow studio member Tracey Eastham can be read here: http://www.newartcriticism.co.uk/fundedartshows.ht…