Human feelings, emotional work and art fairs. Benjamin Fallon observes ways to interact and links between negativity and constructive criticism, from the curatorial to office space organization.
In 1983 the feminist sociologist Arlie Russell-Hochschild published The Managed Heart: The Commercialization of Human Feeling based on years of on the ground research into what she would term ‘emotional labor’. The book follows two forms of gendered labour, primarily air hostesses but later in a less discussed aspect debt collectors, tracing how in their working lives they are trained to perform a supposed interior essence. In her analysis she develops the idea of deep acting, linking it to the theatre director Stanislavski’s method acting, differing from the more superficial niceties we enact daily to smooth social interaction, deep acting moves from the attempt to persuade others to a more profound alteration of oneself to respond to stimulus differently. We are now 30 years on from the publishing of the Managed Heart’s first edition and things have changed, written in America at the start of widespread deindustrialization and only two years into Reagan’s tenure (1), we have seen a shift in the ‘West’ to a finance economy supported by a service sector of emotional workers. Emotional work has been expanded into almost every aspect of labor and ongoing precarisation, brought about by flexibility, means we are more often than not in sales mode, selling ourselves on the open market, looking for the next job.
Delivery mechanisms. Interview with Paul Sullivan
Paul Sullivan is an architect, artist, curator and director of Static Gallery based in Liverpool. Over a couple of weeks we bounced some emails back and forth discussing some of the concerns of his practice and its relationship to a number of ongoing concerns on architecture, autonomy and the art fair.
Benjamin Fallon: Maybe we could start with you introducing your practice and its relationship with Static, the organisation which you are director of? I am specifically interested in your background as an architect and how this comes into play in your activities?
Paul Sullivan: My practice as an artist/architect is interwoven with my role as Director of Static Gallery.
The Static Gallery building at 9-23 Roscoe Lane, Liverpool is essentially a large-scale 6000 square foot prototype to experiment with. Together with Becky Shaw (co-director of Static 1999-2005) and John Byrne (co-director of Static 2005 – present), we have used the building to examine issues such as public/private space, trade, colonization, conflict resolution, surveillance and financial autonomy.
The fact that Static Gallery is also seen as an institution externally has also allowed Static to embed itself within and therefore to scrutinize at close quarters the structures and mechanisms of contemporary cultural production and dissemination.
Static has always developed and tested projects out in Liverpool but has also increasingly developed projects internationally or been approached and commissioned to carry out projects outside of Liverpool. Therefore Static acts as both commissioner and commissioned.
Benjamin Fallon defines the need for public structures (and times) for art. Public funding, the History of present economics, public structures, the market, art councils, welfare state, sovereignty, the balance between public and private, the relationship between art and commodity…
John Maynard Keynes
Public funding for the arts in Europe emerged at a specific historical juncture. After the horrors of WWII the public mood was towards pulling together and rebuilding. John Maynard Keynes, the economist behind the ideas underpinning this reconstruction and establishment of the welfare state, died in 1946, but his influence did not. He endorsed a mixed economy of public and private interests to be bolstered by the state during times of depression and to be stepping back during more stable periods. Keynes was an avid supporter of the arts throughout his life and latterly married a Russian émigré ballet dancer. His endorsement extended to championing of the formation of the Arts Council, which he chaired until his premature death. Initially his support for the arts was directed towards the more ‘refined’ areas of ballet and opera but as his influence spread so did the remit of the Arts Council, which began to fund the work of artists whose practices were more experimental in nature and would not easily find support through commercial mechanisms. This was, of course, not an entirely neutral process, inherently linked to the ongoing Cold War, and was, like the Welfare State, a means for capitalism to demonstrate that it could care for people alongside perpetuating a narrow idea of freedom.