suggest is, to reflect our discourse, as I believe we are in the middle of all
of that, which does mean that there is still space to influence and change the
discourse, even our own. And I also like to discuss creativity as a discursive
term, that has a genealogy in the process of secularization, the emergence of a
modern subjectivity and a central role in capitalist social forms of societies.
I do not think we have such things as “Creative Industries” yet, but we have a discourse around it and the international will and desire to realize them soon. One could also think about the “Creative Industries” discourse as a technology to capitalize and mobilize not only specific cultural sectors. Because what goes mostly forgotten in the debate of Creative Industries itself is that the talk about creativity and cultural labor has an impact on the understanding and conceptualizing of labor and subjectivity and the society as a whole. With the vocabulary of creativity and the quotation of bohemian life and work biographies a transformation of societies takes place, which do affect policymaking as well as the field of the political and our critique.
The figure of the artist as expetional figure
as the creator of innovations in modes of production, authorship concepts, or
forms of living is circulating in various discourses on societal transformation
today. Moreover, the classical exceptional subjects of
modernity – artists, musicians,
non-conformists and bohemians – also
function as role models in European Union debates on labor and social politics,
in Germany, Switzerland or on the forefront in the UK.
political debate the figure of the artist or cultural-preneur as Anthony Davies
once named it, seem to embody that above mentioned successful combination of an
unlimited variety of ideas, creativity-on-call and smart self-marketing, which
today is demanded of everyone. Subject positions outside the mainstream labor
force are presented as self-motivated source of productivity and celebrated as ‘creators
of new, subversive ideas’, innovative life- and
work-styles and passionate commitment. One
reason among others for this change in values is the fact that once stable
institutional and organizational specifications have been deregulated and
loosened and the stereotypically male long-term job biography has been
eroded. Because of this it becomes –
from the perspective of groups that related to stable labor biographies like bourgiouse or labor parties- difficult to
determine how, when, why to differentiate between ‘work’
and ‘non-work’. The artist seem to be the reference figure
to understand this relation, or works as a significant for mediating this new
understanding of live and work to a broader audience.
The classical subject of exception, including her/his precarious employment situation, has been transformed in recent economic discourse into a model economic actor. In the managerial discourse, assessments, trainings, consulting and its literature of today, creative action and thought are no longer merely expected of artists, curators and designers. The new flexible, time based employees are the customers of the booming creativity-promotion market, provided with the appropriate advice-brochures, seminars, software etc. These educational programs, learning techniques and tools supply applicable methods, at the same time projecting new potential forms of being. Their aim is to make ‘optimising‘ of the self seem desirable. Creativity training demands and supports a liberation of creative potential, without addressing existing social conditions that might pose an impediment. On the one hand, then, creativity shows itself to be the democratic variant of genius: the ability to be creative is bestowed on everyone. On the other hand everyone is required to develop her/his creative potential. The call for self-determination and participation no longer designates only an emancipated utopia, but also a social obligation. The subjects comply with these new relations of power apparently by free will. In Nikolas Rose’s terms, they are ‘obliged to be free’, urged to be mature, autonomous and responsible for themselves. Their behaviour shall not regulated by a disciplinary power, but by ‘governmental’ techniques grounded in the neo-liberal idea of a 'self-regulating' market. These techniques are intended to mobilize and stimulate, rather than discipline and punish. As contingent and flexible as the 'market' is, the new labor subjects shall be.
The requirement or Imperative to be Creative, to fit yourself in the market relates to the very traditional understanding of the artistic production, as the artists income is only possible by selling products over the art market (a myth that nowadays gets very much valued again). But there is an important difference to the field of the managerial discourse at this point. As to fail in the market cannot be equally valued than in the art world, as the artist who fails, still has other subject position he/she can relate and switch over to, and transform the loss. The not recognized artist can be mobilized in every moment of loss, because the loss can be legitimated with assumptions like “time is not ready for it”, but finally “quality will win” and “recognition can come late”, (or latest after you are dead). But this myth of the non-recognized, unsuccessful but talented and misunderstood artist cannot be integrated into the managerial discourse easily. As I guess we can wait some time for a enterprise that would be explored years after its death/bankruptcy. Or that a super engaged, motivated, flexible and mobile but unsuccessful Unemployed, who just did not get a job over the labor market, would get a retrospective in the MOMA with a coffee table book publication aside, and finally a place in the hall of fame…after his or her death.
But the subjectivity of non-recognition is integrated in the self-description of immaterial laborers at large. The artist as a model for self-describtion of the new flexible labor force was found in several studies in Germany lately on the Media and IT Business World, i.e. a Study T-Mobile Germany showed, that for many employees the humilation of having only a time limited and or bad paid job, was interpreted as a passage, a short-term experience, that will be over come, as once you will get the job you desired, the way to get it might be hard, but your goal is clear. A subjectivity of contingency that embodies the failure of the Free Market into a positive individual experience, a privatization, a transformation of structural changes in the social, political and economical field, that are dealt with as a challenge.
Artist-subjects, intellectuals and
bohemians are specifically European constructs. Scince the 16th century the
creative, world-making ability was no longer regarded as a divine ability, but
(also) a human one in reference to a specific mode of production relating
intellectual and manual abilities to one another and distinguished from
activities that are purely a matter of craft. In this sense, the term
"creativity" included reflexivity, technical knowledge and an
awareness of the contingency of the creative process.
The mythology of the artistic production process
today continues moreover to project the image of a metropolitan lifestyle,
where living and working are done in the same place - at a cafe, on the road –
with the further illusory possibility of added enjoyment of 'leisure' . Historically the notions of
flexibility and mobility thus originate precisely in the traditions of the
drop-out and the generations of artists that sought to resist modernism's
dictums of discipline and rationalisation. As
Elisabeth Wilson, has shown in her Book Bohemians: The Glamorous Outcasts.
this above mentioned discourses are not marginal. Rather, they have
consequences for the whole of society. Meanwhile the conditions of production
are disguised, in art and design as well as in the surviving remnants of
industrial production and in other precarious jobs in the service sector.
With this in
mind, I have started scine 2003 a series of studies or projects in which
interviews with cultural producers with different background played a crucial
role. At the Zurich in 2003 still engaged in the Institute for the Theory of
Design and Ar, my investigation began with the cultural labour in the
self-organized design and multimedia sector and its agents. The study looked
back over the political discourse around labour, rather than the other way
round. This approach seems to be necessary for the development of a theory of
the constitution of the social clearly distinct from the notion of productivity
that is understood as 'accumulative‘ in the materialist tradition. Instead of
argueing for a proof how life is economized I tried to find out how cultural
actors in a specific location try to establish tactics or strategies to resist
the common discours.
First of all, the interviews showed that the concepts and imaginations of office and studio as production spaces have already been mixed up to such an extent that after 20 years of personal computer culture, in Zurich‘s graphic design and art scene it is primarily the studio, rather than the office, that survives as a model of self-engaged production . The people I spoke with have been all very active in multimedia applications for multinational companies or branding enterprises in the mid to end 90ties. It was astonishing to see, that this situation shifted a few years later into a common aggreement in the „floor“, that one should try to avoid working in this field of image production in general and that clients, who ever they are, should not be invited in the building for arranging contracts etc.
While multimedia producers and graphic designers shift towards the studio, artists used terms like 'labouratory‘ or 'office‘ in their attempts to describe a more collective and multimedia-oriented mode of production. As both groups shared the same buildung, the entiteling seem for both groups the critical artists and the designers as strategic descision. Furthermore, the conversations with the divers producers showed, to my surprise, that temporary, collective networks were not anymore common in the graphic design or multimedia scenes in realtion to the production of coorporate images. The production on the „floor“ did not function as a „factory“ at all, contrary to what Maurizio Lazzarato claimed, for example, in his canonical text on ‘immaterial labour'. In Maurizio Lazzarato's essay the connections between the new production conditions in post-fordism and artistic-cultural work were named clearly. Lazzarato presumes that characteristics of the so-called post-industrial economy, in terms of both its mode of production and the circumstances of society as a whole, are condensed in the classical forms of "immaterial" production. If they are found in a fully realized form in the areas of the audio-visual industries, advertising and marketing, fashion, computer software, photography, and artistic-cultural work in general and appear as agents and representatives of "the classical forms of immaterial labor", I would suggest, after having finished the study, to emphasize on their implicit resistance potential and everyday life tactics against processes of economization.
As the self-employed designers in the Zurich scene functioned much more as an 'alternative economy‘, depending on alternative cultural spaces, - where they got their little but quite ok income. The pesented themselves in the conversation as enclosed studio monads that consciously resist cooperation with the 'branding‘ and 'marketing‘ systems, or to make it even clearer, cooperated only when in urgent need of money, - doing a „job“, working fort he rent or a holiday trip. This group I am taking about here has no political strategy, they do not discuss Unions or the change of the society and it’s conditions of labor in general, but invented a way to make their living in this self-organized partially freelance engagement.
the interviews almost all of them argued, that they did not reject a 9 to 5 job
solely because this regimentation of time seems paternalistic to them, but also
because they could not bear either business culture and its social dynamics or
the idea of having to subordinate themselves
to a hierarchical working relationship. Multimedia and graphics jobs – as I could find out in
the conversations - did also make it possible for (mostly) young men to move up
the graphic-designer’s self-image comes increasingly to resemble that of the
artist (as single author) till today, allowing him or her to discard the image
of the success-oriented designer and the idea of the company or as just a
crafts person that is foolowing the demands of the client. That is to be found in the Art-scene as
well, as a lot of actors here do not appropriate the image of the artist in the
hope of economic gain but much more in realtion to social status, as a
possibility of social mobbility that is not bound to money exchange solely.
The quoted motifs of the bohemian life do not only come up in the discourse of labour market policies and in the discourse of economic success, but also in this field of applied art, where it is used as a social value to distinguish yourself from usual business. Among these specific "young creatives", precarious working conditions that are not determined by businesses solely are based on a choice of modes of living in every case that I encountered. In other words, freelancing or working independently, rather than in a position of permanent employment, relates with the desire of living an enjoyable life not structured by others. A life that is not just precarious, but will never get super rich, in which the social status is about a convenient way to make your living and not so much about to get internationally famous. This seems a high privilege that most of the people world wide do not share, and even some of us over stressed theorists do not share.
This cultural Niche Economy only exists because of a still existing alternative cultural scene, alternative networks of institutions that have been established by the riots in Zurich or other cities. It exists as unemployment money is still available in Switzerland for young people who just finished their education, and as well because of a network of cultural producers that relate to this alternative world of cultural spaces, bars and clubs, political initiatives, temporal teaching jobs, self-initiated projects, in always finding ways for small incomes as well as by involving people on the floor or in the building in their little but existing money flow. Here the niche-economy gets to be a key question of cultural policy and a local specifity.
Even if the self-reliance and self-organisation of an 'artist-subject‘
constituted as historical quotation seem to correspond to the phantasies of
labour market-redevelopers and Creative industries apologeths, the success of
this conjunction, making this form of subjectification "productive" for
economic processes, remains doubtful in
theoretical and epistemological terms as well.