Am I an artist, or a professional artist?
Survival as a concept is dominating the cultural consciousness, acting much like a meme, clinging to other concepts in an attempt to elevate its own necessity. Just as the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) ethic was popularized in the early 2000’s, themes of survivalism are pervasive in the contemporary cultural landscape. In art, survivalism is explored as a subject, certainly, but artists are also also practicing survivalism as a means of sustaining their ‘careers.’ One might argue that the professionalization of the artist is precisely a gesture of adaptation toward survival, under the cloak of capitalist production, where survival in one’s career is coextensive with survival in the world.
How does the professionalization of the artist effect artists and artworks? Of course the creative process risks constriction when artists feel obliged to conform artistically to market trends as determined by a narrow elite. Yet this is only one way that the professionalization of the artist has been manifest, and perhaps ironically, many artists resist trends in an effort to remain singular. Chasing trends (production based on market demand) and creating trends (value based on rarity or perceived rarity) are both adaptive survival skills. So, too, is the professional development of the artist as entrepreneur. We are witnessing this collapse of business practice with artistic practice in many workshops and development programs for emerging artists.
For the exhibition, Kissing in Heaven at the Chicago Artist Coalition gallery we’ve created Survival: Handled. In a gesture of self-conscious survivalism, this work collapses our creative activity with the necessary manual labor to create an exhibition. We’re at once providing a service for our fellow exhibitors and presenting documentation of that labor in the form of artworks. Handled is part of a larger series of survival works in which we explicitly take on the varied roles of the professionalized and diversified artist.
Survival: Handled (guide) – download pdf
Documentation of Kissing in Heaven at the Chicago Artist Coalition exhibition space.