2013 - 2015 Eona McCallum: "What makes you itch? What sort of a situation would you really like?"

Excerpt from Eona's 20 minute presentation for Do The Right Thing ! ~ DAI's 3 day graduation lectures marathon, July 2015.

What makes you itch? What sort of a situation would you really like?


In a performance-lecture borrowing elements from job interview-training sessions, Eona McCallum explored the kinds of relationships people have to their work, and looked into complex questions of labor in the art world (or so-called ‘creative industry’) through her talk consisting of audio quotations from a variety of voices/speakers including Professor Alan Watts, ‘Chunky Mark’ AKA The Artist Taxi Driver, anonymous artists she interviewed, and herself. Her power point presentation, with clips from motivational speeches, and her use of highly competitive and judgmental language (a regular part of the corporate environment), highlighted the oppressive corporate vibe, but its message was undermined with a high level of sarcasm and humor throughout the talk. Mediated through this collection of voices, the artist asked about the relationship between what one does and what one makes in terms of the economy. She also considered general questions about the labor structure, fair compensation, happiness, fulfillment, identification as a “worker”, and the interdependence of organizations and financial/labor structures. Her lecture-performance was a way of thinking about freedom as a way of being better aware of structures and how we are all implicated. Speaking with her own voice (but perhaps not with her own words), she asks us, “Is there an implied question of sincerity in what you do?” and claims that, “for me, artistic practice is an exercise in self-governance.” Towards the end, McCallum makes a real demand: payment for making the world more interesting!

Maria Hlavajova remarked, “this is one of the moments when you laugh and giggle at your own tragic situation. How have we been socialized to think of work as a part of our lives?” One way to understand this might me by first trying to understand collectivity, and notice the issues art shares with other aspects of society. She offered an anecdote that illustrated the question of how one lives. She was with a group of artists and refugees, and together they looked at their financial situations. By looking at the real financial situation of artists in room and refugees, they found they had more in common than they thought – that is, both live in a state of precarity. Hlavajova wonders, “Is there a way to rethink artistic practice as something other than work?”

Bassam el Baroni noticed that the main voice seemed to allude to a very specific 1950s American (white male) advertising voice from the age of Fordism, and commented that McCallum’s lecture-performance evoked a situation where this very voice is instructing us around a post-Fordist moment. El Baroni would not want to go back to Fordism, but says that the current situation is also not good. For him, this work found a way of representing that tension between the time when “labour was labour” and this current precarious moment. It could be described a state “in between desire for post capitalist world and being trapped in post-Fordist one.” He referred to Michel Feher’s analysis of neoliberalism in essay called “Self-Appreciation; or, The Aspirations of Human Capital,” and asked about how we have been put in the position of investing in ourselves. “Why do you work? The logic goes that it’s the only way you can invest in yourself, doing things without any foreseeable return with the hope that eventually there might be some payback…The figure of the intern is the ultimate personification of this process.”

For Alena Alexandrova the question McCallum posed brought up a reference to Meister Eckhart concerning action “If you were to ask someone who acted from his own ground, ‘Why do you do what you are doing?’ if he were to answer genuinely he would say ‘I do it because I do it.” Alexandrova remarked that we are pushed into justifying our actions to fit in some kind of goal but we should disentangle our goal-oriented actions to not be working towards a goal and rethink artwork as work without a goal.

Marina Vishmidt commented, that “if art is always dependent on what it is meant to be independent from (that is, labor), what happens when this horizon of self-direction or unguided productivity becomes an imperative for everyone.” She asked how this paradox is materialized in the practice. When the practice is preoccupied with its conditions, then what does that mean for the practice itself? What are the materials and methodology then?

About Do The Right Thing !

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