“Time as currency; Labour as art. Together everyone is an artist, and the work belongs to everybody.” – The Artists Company
‘Got Your Name Or Not?’ (GYNON) , is a participatory art project organized by The Artists Company (TAC) involving people from all walks of life, deseminated into the framework of an art exhibition – capturing time as currency; labour as art, the crux of their discussion.
Recently on May the 1st (ironically also labour day), the public was sought to come forth and participate in art-making at the studio, happening over the span of seven days and clocking in at a total of 49 hours. In this model of production, the artist’s individuality, style and ownership take a back seat in place for a numbers game of labour hours spent working at the studio. Your physical presence determines how big a percentage does one ‘own’ the work at the end of the show.
“Each participant becomes conscious of the time, labour involved and immaterial and intangible value of these constructions, as they clock in/out, work on their art and develop a social bond with the artists.” – The Artists Company
The Artists Company and GYNON poses a couple of questions in this exploration of the altruistic model of art-making that further propagate the discussion of the journey in art-making:
When two or more people are given the artistic license to decide where the work is going, how do they come to a consensus?
Does an artwork need to come with an author?
When is a work considered completed?
Will an artwork ever be complete?
While these questions are better handled over a forum, let’s put a pin on them and try to tackle it slowly. To pose alternative thoughts and contribute to this ongoing discussion.
When it comes to ownership of a work, it depends largely on what said artist believes to be the definitive signifier of their ownership. For some, it would be time spent, for others it would be the Ideation, and others still it would be the just simple task of signing your name on said artwork. Is the artwork’s worth tied to its tangibility? Can the artwork’s licensing be split up like a will? If there are multiple owners of an IP like how movies are dealt with, can an agreement be made using money as a bargaining tool? The fact that this discussion is to be had means that we ultimately value art as a false sense of commodity.
Why is there a need for claimed ownership of an artwork in the first place? I could have very well doodled a topical chalk drawing critiquing the political climate of Singapore on the bare sidewalk of Orchard road (without hopefully getting caught) but if I don’t sign it, don’t claim ownership, does it detract from the value of the work in itself? Throwing that out there. In fact, I think it’ll probably be labeled as vandalism and a bounty will be placed on my head for social deviancy (still though!). Perhaps then this is more of a question ownership vs. public recognition.
When is a work considered complete? Well, it depends on who you ask: The artist or the audience? An artwork may never be complete, at least in a all- encompassing universal understanding of it, but will always retain a level of good enough. With the sheer number of works we see on the day to day art market and scene, the idea of “completion” seems more self serving to the benefit of audiences than to the artist themselves. A seemingly half finished painting on a purely aesthetic level has the same level of respect and value as any other fully painted image, to put it quite simply into perspective. The variables must be taken into consideration, intent of work, the artist, the individuality, the style – though don’t get me wrong, not to put on a pedestal, but to acknowledge it. We could go deeper into the value of the Auteur, but then again..we would be here all night.
This model of altruistic art-making alters the goal of the ‘artist’ from one who conventionally produces work in a more intrinsic fashion – introspective and bougie-esq to that of ‘another worker’. This is not a negative exploration into the subject but questions the rather large disproportionate amount of consideration we usually place into artists as persons of individuality, skill and/or ownership. While the point of the show generously highlights the power struggle dynamic between the artwork and its worth based on labour hours spent, it ironically also detracts away the meaning of said artworks for this social exploration. In this case, as part of the audience, if value is suggested to be given to works with more labour put into them, does the artwork’s intent and narrative matter at all? Are pieces of art being auctioned off or just a physical representation of those hours spent? If time is a placeholder for currency, that doesn’t mean that all time is worth equally.
Time stamps and clocking in reflect the impression of blue-collar jobs and whether intentionally or not, the cement used in many of the participating artists’ works emulate that same vibe. I found the aspect of ‘clocking in’ also interesting in regards that it is used as a measure of time spent. Traditionally when we clock in for our day time jobs, it is less a measure of time spent and more a measure of social reliability and productivity. It’s less to determine how many hours you work but to ensure you work for said number of hours, lest be berated by your supervisor. Then we begin to ask questions like, how did these participating artists value their time? If I clock in for 3 hours but only place in 5 minutes worth of effort, does that mean anything in the grander scheme of things?
GYNON ended off with an art auction called The B.E.A.U.T.Y Auction in hopes to sell off some the artworks to fund the artists and community for further shows and programmes down the road. It is held in collaboration with Your MOTHER Gallery and artist Jeremy Hiah.
As of writing this article, we were also told that interestingly enough, TAC wanted to share the profits of the aforementioned auction with the participating artists, asking them to claim their due ‘salary’ in proportion to the number of labour hours spent. No one has responded to the call which perhaps does affirm the suggestion that the worth and monetary value of the artwork takes an ironic antecedence to the higher social cause of this project.
For more information on The Artists Company and their upcoming projects, you can follow their Facebook page here
**All Images Provided are courtesy of The Artists Company/ Lai Lam Fave