Last year I visited an exhibition that explored the workings of Economics in Art. The exhibition was held at at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow. It showcased many famous artists that were not known to me at the time. One piece I remember particularly well was a series of videos from a project by artist Olga Kisseleva. Kisseleva has been working with artists from all over Europe to create diptychs juxtaposing their studio practice with paid employment. The still above is from a story of a performance artist who earned her living at a rehabilitation centre. The bizarre movements of her patients were echoed in the exuberant dance performances she staged in her living room.
Other stories included a painter turned factory worker and a young girl invigilating in a white cube. They were very strong visually. The factory environment was filled of noise and the structured chaos of machinery. This was later reflected in the man’s drawings. The gallery job held by the girl was the complete opposite - day by day, she was paralyzed by inactivity. The frame in the video remained virtually unchanged throughout.
While Kisseleva’s project focusses largely on artists in Eastern Europe, it is relevant for anyone who is forced to deal with the challenges of leading a double life. The videos expose the alienation that invariably comes with such a lifestyle. Above all, however, the project is a study of how the two actions, art practice and work, impact on each other. In a sense, it touches on the very old question of artistic inspiration: where does the drive to make work come from? Does the work become contaminated by lowly concerns such as money?
The project does not seek to provide easy answers. At the end of the day, each and every artist will have to find one for him or her self: why do I make work, and what do I expect for it? Perhaps in an ideal world all artists would be on a convenient yearly salary of 25k. Or maybe that would just about ruin it all.