Over at Spike Art Daily, Timo Feldhaus has been interviewing artists and curators about rearing children in the art world. Curator Chus Martínez talks about the difference between raising kids in a more progressive Spain versus a conservative Germany, and how parenthood and affective labor are societal issues, rather than issues exclusive to women. The full interview is available via Spike here.
Who else here has raised kids in the art world? I'd be curious to hear about a parent's experience raising a kid in New York, which seems next to impossible.
Timo Feldhaus: How many kids do you have?
Chus Martínez: One – six years old.
Did the way you work change since your child was born?
No, I don’t think so actually.
Is it more difficult to have children in the art world than in other fields of work?
I can’t tell since I only work in the art world. However, there are very substantial differences depending on cultural context and culture that do affect the way an imagination of what is or is not possible when having children is produced.
Can you explain your last sentence please? What do you mean by “What is or not possible when having children is produced”?
Well, every cultural context defines differently the “woman-at-work” situation. Rights are one thing, reality, and how reality is managed, another. During the 90s a series of legal but also social structures were implemented in Spain to assure full integration of woman at work. I must admit that I was shocked when I first came to Germany to see how motherhood and ambition at work were seen as two opposite things and how little effort was made to correct this perception. It also seemed difficult to find support and the correct structures to allow woman to work and have children, and I was surprised how happily it was assumed that for a woman family comes first etc. I think this has changed a little bit, but it is still a challenge for women, and if success in combining family with working aspirations is accomplished it is normally is due to her effort, and not a collective effort, to succeed in this. There is a very meaningful debate in Spain right now about “conciliatory” hours, meaning, trying to regulate the office hours and the school and also grocery and doctor hours so that having children and work and life would become more organic. The debate assumes also the different nature of parenthood today, without relying on conservative family formats. I just mention it because I know the Spanish case, and because in Northern Europe people tend to assume they have better conditions for woman at work, but I sincerely do not think so, even if there is a long way to go in every different geographical location.
Do you have the impression that there are less kids in the art world than in other fields of work? To me it seems like you are only supposed to have kids at a time when you are "done", i.e.: successful. This makes having kids in the art world surprisingly hard.
I would be unable to judge this in numbers. I think that it’s not an easy decision to be made in general. The narratives at place are also quite miserable. From women to men, there is always a certain pleasure in stressing how your life is going to change; implying that freedom, and a certain form of youth, is over. Due to these constraints, the time for your work will also change resulting in poor performance, or worse, a competitive situation.
It is a collective effort to imagine women that are able to realize their career ambitions and have children. This is not a “woman-thing”, but a society question. Different social and economic imaginations imply a transformation in how we work, we talk and we act. It is a gender question that affects all genders, as well as all sorts of family models, and that is at the core of the question of the future. To properly address this question is crucial.
*Image of Chus Martínez via arcthemagazine.com