As creatives, freelancers, contract and gig workers in the “1099 generation,” our labor is often devalued. We don’t receive health care, sick leave, or even paid time off. Tens of thousands of dollars in late invoices aren’t uncommon, pushing independent contractors into precarious situations, where carrying debt is the only way to survive.
The livelihoods of creative individuals depend on a complex equation of art sales, side hustles, partners’ employment status and/or “secret” day jobs in order to cover living expenses and tools for creative practice. We need to have an honest conversation about art as labor, underlying systemic structures, and a conspiracy of silence, that prevent artists who don't have well-employed spouses, large pots of gold, a trust fund, or prior family wealth from making a living from their work.
The current system means that a huge percentage of artists are excluded from the conversation simply because they can't afford to participate. With your support (literally), we can make this project—and this conversation—happen together.
Fuck This, Pay Me is a real-time conceptual artwork that reveals the practical aspects of life as an artist, including cash flow, performative social obligations, and other emotional and financial labor (both online as well as the physical investment that goes into making work). The purpose of this piece is to pull back the curtain on the gig economy for contract and creative labor, and to raise awareness of contemporary art practices as they relate to expression and survival under capitalism.
I’m presenting Fuck This, Pay Me as a conceptual artwork through Kickstarter to emphasize that every dollar we spend is a political act. When we pay $25 for entrance to a museum, $9 for streaming Spotify, or $500 directly to an artist–we’re making a statement about our values and what we want to see more of in the world.
Why is this important?
In the art world–regardless of career stage–artists cover the costs for materials, production, fabrication, installation, travel, lodging, food, and standard living expenses while producing new works. This means we’re not only incurring the debt of production but we’re also not earning any money from our labor–the more we create, the more debt we must carry before the work is shown–and if the work does not sell, that debt is ours indefinitely including any interest rates tacked on by the credit card companies or banks.
I’ve spent the last decade working as an artist and am successful enough to present my work in galleries, museums, and institutions internationally with an average of thirty shows per year. Still, behind the scenes, I’ve had a steady stream of side hustles to cover my bills for when invoices went unpaid despite repeated attempts to collect, a process which has sometimes lasted months or even years. This cycle has a domino effect on the work we make, the work we create and our stability in multiple facets of life. Chasing down unpaid invoices for art sales, shipping, and contract work has become a large percentage of my workload and takes away from the time I can commit to my practice. From talking with peers, I know that my situation is far from unique and represents a larger systemic issue.
Throughout this process, I’m thinking about: what would a contemporary patronage model look like and how might it function? Who should be responsible for realizing it? What kinds of enormous strides could we make if all of the hours we spend working two, three, or four side gigs went into developing new work and bodies of research instead?
I’m an anti-disciplinary, experimental artist working in the fields of emerging media, open source, pop culture, and hacktivism. In 2016, I co-founded Deep Lab, a collective of researchers who are engaged in ongoing critical assessments of contemporary culture. My work has been shown in galleries and museums all over the world, and I’ve had research fellowships at Eyebeam Art & Technology Center, Culture Lab UK, Institute HyperWerk for Postindustrial Design Basel (CH), and The Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University among others.
What will your contribution support?
Every contribution will help bring visibility to the labor conditions of independent contractors by turning this problem into an artwork that exists in the public, where we can more openly discuss this issue and hold parties accountable for paying artists on time.
Here’s a breakdown of where this all goes:
- 30% will go toward designing and building backer rewards
- 20% will cover the tax that I have to pay on the materials and funds from the campaign
- 15% will go toward reward fulfillment including shipping, packaging and handling
- 8% will go toward Kickstarter and Stripe’s processing fees
- 27% remaining will go toward my rent, cost of living and capital to fund the creation of new work, including materials and prototyping cost.
Risks and challenges
These privileges give me a platform to discuss this issue that most certainly affects those less privileged or established than I am, so this project is in part an aim to ring this bell for others who simply don’t have time to ring it for themselves.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (29 days)