1

Zafra, Remedios. El entusiasmo: precariedad y trabajo creativo en la era digital (Enthusiasm: Precariousness and Creative Work in the Digital Age). Colección Argumentos 514. Barcelona: Anagrama, 2017.

2

Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018.

3

Virno, Paolo. A Grammar of the Multitude: For an Analysis of Contemporary Forms of Life. Semiotexte/Smart Art, 2004.

 

4

The term is used here as it was used by Bruno Latour, in the sense of “hiding”, “locking away”.

5

Virtuous Work

Flyer for an AWC demonstration on 30 March 1969. Alfred H. Barr, Jr Papers, 1,489. The Museum of Modern Art.

At the beginning of the 1970s, a group of artists got together to form an association called the Art Workers Coalition and started referring to themselves as Art Workers.

The coalition, which had its origins in the debate over the relationship between artists and with museums (especially the MoMA), was not alien to the labour and trades union issues that permeated the social dialogue of the day and would later contribute to the heyday of the welfare state.

This simple but radical movement debunked the image of the long-suffering artist (a poor but successful figure, as Remedios Zafra puts it1) and acknowledged that art was above all a profession and, as such, should be subject to all the labour-related considerations from which it usually remained isolated. The artists involved were now talking about retirement pensions, minimum wages and the (transverse) relationship between the AWC and other trades union organizations.

Art in general certainly seems to be one of the so-called “virtuoso” professions–Hannah Arendt, for example2–in which the product is the individual’s own virtuoso interpretation as displayed for all to see. In the same vein, Paolo Virno3 cites Glenn Gould as an example of how virtuoso work is ultimately fulfilled in its very exhibition and does not therefore generate any tangible end-product.

Essentially, that performative moment when the production process is completed – when the interpretation and appreciation of the work by a third party creates what Marxist theory would call surplus value – hides everything that took place prior to it, objectifying the product and, again resorting to classical Marxist terminology, concealing within it all the labour related circumstances from which it emerged. In the case of Gould, the actual work is not the pianist’s interpretation of the Goldberg Variations but all the countless preliminary tasks which led to that moment.

With architects, this invisibility of the production process is doubly peculiar. Firstly, because the discipline itself (and, undoubtedly, many of its educational models) have tended to adopt Virno’s and Arendt’s definition of virtuoso work, thereby circumscribing professional activity to the performative capacity of a project at the moment of its denouement and, in many cases, to the architect’s own biased (and deliberately convoluted) description of it. And secondly, because performativity simplifies everything: the key is no longer just the end product on display, but the whole discourse about that end product, and all the tasks and labour issues that we so joyfully “blackbox”4 are hidden away.

Only taking into account this simplification is it possible to understand the continued propagation of the idea that the architect’s work comprises only design-related tasks and that budgeting, assessment, preparation and teaching activity are “something else” completely alien to us, bread-and-butter distractions from the final (idealised) virtuosity that we consider the only assumable form of (self)realisation.

As the members of the AWC said (way back in 1970!), we are indeed Architecture Workers.

Our job is much more than merely objectifying and exhibiting a small part of just one of the tasks we perform. The triumph of the welfare state was partly that of the transversity of workers who realised that work was a common denominator, that there was no intrinsic hierarchy of different tasks, no difference between the car designer at the drawing board and the operator on the assembly line.

Or, perhaps, between an architect designing a building and an architect who evaluates, measures and budgets projects.


Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor
Notas de página
1

Zafra, Remedios. El entusiasmo: precariedad y trabajo creativo en la era digital (Enthusiasm: Precariousness and Creative Work in the Digital Age). Colección Argumentos 514. Barcelona: Anagrama, 2017.

2

Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018.

3

Virno, Paolo. A Grammar of the Multitude: For an Analysis of Contemporary Forms of Life. Semiotexte/Smart Art, 2004.

 

4

The term is used here as it was used by Bruno Latour, in the sense of “hiding”, “locking away”.

5
Autor:
(Almería, 1973) Arquitecto por la ETSAM (2000) y como tal ha trabajado en su propio estudio en concursos nacionales e internacionales, en obras publicas y en la administración. Desde 2008 es coeditor junto a María Granados y Juan Pablo Yakubiuk del blog n+1.

Deja un comentario

Tu correo no se va a publicar.

*

Últimos posts