At Open Space, the blog of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, writer and performance artist Claudia La Rocco has an incisive rant about the working conditions of freelance art writers. Why, she asks, can’t wealthy art institutions pay freelancers promptly, and why do freelancers continue to put up with this treatment? An excerpt:
I don’t have a day job, but rather a cobbled-together network of contract work and one-offs, which run the gamut from ridiculously pleasurable to mind-numbingly tedious. I’ve been at this long enough that I can ignore — or treat as pro bono if the task tickles me — insultingly low offers from highly designed publications to write lengthy essays. I’ve graduated to the nonstop juggle, freelance hustle. I’m guessing many of you know the drill: pitching the next funder or institution while scurrying to finish the old project and diving into the current one. More and more and more. It’s “The Evangelism Game,” and we’re all expected to play in the arts: “Please explain, in 300 words, how your new XXX will meaningfully contribute to the field.” It’s advanced practice for how to never live in the present…
I am not a star. I am successful enough that I have the luxury of wondering how I can sustain the level of production that we have all, insanely, agreed is necessary — and which seems to me to be at the root of many of these problems. It seems the Culture Wars really did turn us all into mercenary puritans. We have smartphones. We have student debt. We forget to be amateurs. This is how we “make it work.”
Image: Claudia La Rocco in Taste, a site-specific performance and installation created by Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener in collaboration with La Rocco and Davison Scandrett. Via Open Space.