In Italy, the lack of professional ethics; the utter failure to establish objective criteria for the support and recognition of cultural workers; the planned absence of any generational turnover in the sector; the prevailing acclaim for the individual at the expense of forms that encourage collaborative processes; and the systematic disregard for practices that do not pursue economic or market oriented goals - has led to a system incapable of opening up to change, however minimal. This atmosphere has induced an irreversible processes of de-professionalization, creating the conditions for a dangerous split between the public sphere and cultural production. The stubborn persistence of the status quo often invalidates any kind of opposition, stifling the confidence in the possibility of change and making every effort seem in vain to pursue.
In response to this situation, workers in the cultural industry question the institutional processes in cultural production, raising issues about the relationship between art and the public sphere. The inability of institutions to create a system capable of encouraging younger generations has brought forth the emergence of autonomous, self-organized groups in order to provide real alternatives while highlighting the limitations and shortcomings of traditional institutions.
We believe that the cultural industry, the system within which we work and produce culture, has changed dramatically over the past thirty years.
We are all aware that our lives as workers are extremely precarious. We invest our own money to acquire a high degree of education, develop great expectations that are the result of our knowledge, critical thinking and alleged individual freedom. Yet again we invest our own money to work as best we can in order to develop our experience within the art system. In exchange, we expect this system to recognize us as a financial resource and allow us to produce independently while respecting our freedom of expression - even beyond the interests of profit and gain. We are not granted this right, but neither is it denied to us in principle. This is where the exploitation begins: we invest to maintain our role and in exchange we are paid for a myriad of side-jobs and menial tasks, by-products of what we really know how to do. Such by-products constitute the real labour marketplace of the cultural industry.
We are no longer "the excluded", because the state of exclusion itself is the real business!
We live in anticipation - the expectation of crossing a threshold into a space of shared rights and the potential for independent expression - without realizing that this waiting room is just the system itself and there is nothing beyond the threshold. Our rights have been removed without us noticing, and we are inadvertently upholding the conditions of our exploitation. We accept this precariousness while waiting for something more legitimate, but we alone encourage our own anticipation.
Why do we accept this precarity as a mere by-product, a secondary concern? Why do people who work in the art field hardly ever identify with the protests of other workers lacking job security?
We recognize the artistic and cultural production as a collaborative production, a result of the encounter between individuals and the social, with a cooperative and collective dimension. We believe this joint production should be defended against the appropriation by private organizations. The tools of this resistance must be new modes of income and a new welfare state: not only a welfare system aimed at creating state support, but one that fully acknowledges the social, networked and collaborative act of creation.
We must reclaim the sense a of collective body, and we have to express this instance by using the power of the languages we share.
We ask all art workers to open a space for discussion, political action and artistic expression to become a place where we can rightfully claim and develop a different social perspective on cultural production.
This document is written by a group of curators, artists and activists, that since 2009 has been acting critically to produce a discourse around the events happening in the current Italian art scene. The document intends to be representative on a national level and to re-articulate analysis, issues and proposals that can no longer be postponed in the management of art and its system in Italy.
For info and subscriptions: firstname.lastname@example.org