Regarding Artists Regarding Labor

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Ana Torok


In the wake of the Occupy movement and broader discussions concerning the state of the global working class, a number of contemporary artists have demonstrated a renewed interest in exploring the politics of labor through the form, content, and distribution of their work. The case studies taken up here reveal and interrogate forms of human labor embedded within or affected by digital technology. By featuring the artists engaged in transactional relationships or performing the role of capitalist, these predominantly video-based artworks act as concrete reflections of a capitalist economic system. Foregrounding the system’s problematics through reenactment, these artworks tacitly implicate their creator as well as their viewer within a complex web of social relations. This article examines the shape and significance of artistic labor across these case studies and asks whether the very allowance for this form of recent cultural production might itself hold emancipatory potential. 

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