Essay: Art After Work

 Art Workers Coalition, Art Workers Won’t Kiss Ass , performance, 1969 

The glamour of the artist’s life turned out to be just another con. For many who were fooled, it started to look like they were left with only two options. Either be a content piggy working gigs in the creative economy, or be a creative occupier protesting for a better world. But everyone knows that ideological struggles are the only things that pay worse than creative gigs. So, how did critique manage to turn into protest, whose participants became the unwitting guests of honour in institutional spaces – indoors and well heated, though no longer public?

Contemporary art has no history, but it does have its fair share of retrospectives. In Drake’s video for “Hotline Bling”, the camera cuts between an offshore call center and an off-label, post-minimalist, museum-scale art light installation. The camera pans across a lineup of service workers – the Global South has replaced the suburbs as the world’s chief consumer class – before framing the Canadian rapper from the inside of this knock-off James Turrell. Light and Space art offered a totalising production of experience across a totalising economy of meaning; but rap music has been doing that to language for a long time. The conjuncture of the two – rap and light art – makes for a kind of hypespiral, where time is cycled to the cellphone ring and the virtual reproduction of labour in the age of “You should just be yourself / Right now, you’re someone else.” Drake’s outfits shift from sportscore to normcore, complete with corded sweater subtly reminiscent of Eckhaus Latta’s autism-chic season line. Here, the representational horizons of race and class shift accordingly: “And I know when that hotline bling / That can only mean one thing.” Beneath the patriarchal overtones of Drake’s low-key, diasporic ditty is a lament for a missing worker: wherever she is, she’s no longer on call. …

 – The whole text appears in Spike #62. You can buy it in our online shop –