20 Jun

This kind of bullshit really needs to stop.

“∆E=W (change in energy = the work) is a project by artist Emma Smith investigating the energetics of practice… ∆E=W aims to collapse the distinction between art object and ephemeral act by considering all matter, on the sub-atomic level, as energy. Moving beyond a scientific constraint of how we might consider energy, the project investigates the potential of art as a mechanism for the channeling or conversion of energy as experienced physically through the body. Exploring energy in relation to the body, collective action, and practice, the game proposes a new language for interaction within the gallery.”


“Exploring energy in relation to the body, collective action, and practice, the game proposes a new language for interaction within the gallery.”

While written bullshit also needs to stop– seriously, Emma, you clearly don’t know a fucking jot about science so just knock that shit right off– the bullshit I’m mainly referring to is an advert by the Zabludowicz Collection for fifteen “voluntary” (i.e. unpaid) performers to be in Smith’s work at Z’s place. Admittedly it’s only a commitment of about three hours, but the Zabludowicz fortune is somewhere in the region of £1,500 million. ITC/Equity weekly rates for a performer start at £420, plus expenses. The legal minimum wage for a person over 21 is currently £6.19/hour. Apparently, though, Anita Zabludowicz and her flying pashmina monkeys or the artist herself can’t even find £278.55 (£6.19 x 3 x 15) to pay these people if they really think their presence is necessary? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

UK law stipulates that if you are expected to turn up at a specific time and remain there for a stated period (that’s a yes, in this case) and if you couldn’t send somebody else to do your job (also a yes, since the performers have been briefed and rehearsed) then you are an employee and your situation is subject to the national minimum wage. A recent High Court case about internships confirmed this legal position. Saying it’s a voluntary post doesn’t help you. You can call the position whatever you like, but if it meets the aforementioned criteria then it is work and it must by law be paid at no less than the national minimum. So, as far as I can tell, this “opportunity” actually contravenes the law. Arts Council England is also very clear and unequivocal about such matters:

“We recognise that there is great value in people having access to proper work experience, where it is offered and arranged properly and is a mutually beneficial arrangement, but that this should never be used as a way of attempting to circumvent national minimum wage regulations.” (text shown as a sidebar on every page of ACE’s arts jobs site).

But, even leaving that aside (as so many large arts institutions conveniently do), should we have to put up with anybody and everybody expecting us to work for free and be grateful for the “opportunity”?


Mr Bingo sums it up nicely. (click image to visit his site)

Complain, boycott, kick and scream. Artists or curators who acquiesce, facilitate and apologise for this system are very much included in the boycott. Don’t work with them, don’t go to see their shows, don’t support them in any way. Stop putting up with this nonsense if you want there to be anything worthwhile left of the arts in ten years time, or– more to the point– if you want there to be anybody of any worth and integrity working in the arts in ten years time.

Pre-empting the usual objections:

  • “If we had to pay everybody we couldn’t do our show.” Then don’t do your damn show. It’s not that important and hardly anybody will notice. Or take a pay cut yourself if you genuinely believe it’s important that the show goes ahead. Or stop cheating on your budgets by not including things that you know have a cost. Why should the lowest earners subsidise the highest earners?
  • “Artists don’t do it for the money.” (AKA The Oompa Loompa Defence) We may not do it for the money, but why should we do it without the money? Would you work anywhere else for no money, even if you enjoyed it? Even if you’re financially secure enough to answer “yes” to that question, what about all the people who don’t have the same luxury? Do you think they should have to compete with you, or drop out of their vocation because they’re being priced out by people like you? Does Kelly Large, Public Programme Curator at the Zabludowicz Collection, get paid for her work or does she exist entirely on fresh air and kind words as artists are apparently supposed to?
  • “I never got paid/don’t get paid for a lot of the work I do, either.” Then you’re a fool, and you’re part of the problem. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you’re going to work for nothing then work for nothing for yourself instead of exerting yourself for somebody who doesn’t give a shit about you (e.g. Emma Smith and the Zabludowicz Collection).

3 Responses to “£0=GTFO”

  1. Alistair 01/07/2013 at 5:22 PM #

    Reblogged this on Alistair Gentry.



    […] original commentary on this text is here: £0=GTFO. Also some discussion of the artist asking for unpaid performers to investigate “the […]


    […] run a very short gamut from mostly abhorrent to actively immoral and back again. They also recruit unpaid labour, despite being billionaires. If you’re boycotting offshore tax avoiders and deceitful offshore wealth hoarders like […]

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: