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How to live (and survive) outside institutions


This month's topic: Collective workResident Editor: Mela Dávila Freire

How to live (and survive) outside institutions

Six months ago, when I received an invitation to edit the contents of this month’s magazine, the health crisis caused by the coronavirus seemed to be subsiding. The slowdown in cultural life during the first confinement, however, already foresaw disastrous effects on the material conditions of the work and life of many art professionals. If museums, galleries, and other institutions dedicated to the visual arts were affected by the shutdown, independent (often autonomous) workers, who in one role or another make up the non-institutional fabric of our cultural environment, were much more affected.

Since then, things have only gotten worse. The slowdown in the pace of activity has been radical and prolonged, leaving many of us on the brink of bankruptcy and, what’s even worse, without clear ideas of how to get out of it. Although it seems clear that the professional world that we knew is changing, we do not yet know what is to come.

It is difficult, in the face of such uncertainty, not to fall into pessimism. In order to avoid this, this month’s magazine will be dedicated to exploring forms of collective organization, varied types of financing, and effective (and affective) strategies that generate acceptable working conditions for art professionals.

In the system that we are leaving behind, the possible modalities seemed to have been reduced to two extremes: salaried work in an institution, integrated into a hierarchy of interests that leaves little or no space for the projects themselves; or the fragile position of autonomous workers, force to wage a constant fight against precariousness. There are, however, alternative models to these two extremes. BNV Producciones in Seville, Bulegoa z/b in Bilbao, FelipaManuela in Madrid and MARCH International (Saint Louis and Berlin) have been experimenting with these models over the past few years, and they will be commenting on them in the magazine during this month.

The hope is that these interviews are an inspiration for the effort of imagination that we are going to have to make if we want to find a way to continue working and to be able to survive.

[Featured Image: The freighter Ever Green stuck in the Suez canal, april 2021. (Source: Twitter China)]



This month's topic

Mela Dávila Freire. Recently, a poster announced her lecture at an art school with this title: “Mela Dávila is not a graphic designer, she is not an editor, and she is not an artist, either.” Combining periods in which she has worked in art institutions with other when she worked as a freelancer, Mela traces a path that at first involved translating, coordinating and editing, then later focused on archives, and recently encompasses research, writing, and curating. Although she still has not found a name for her profession, she increasingly likes the lack of a straight line in her career.

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"A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world" (John Le Carré)