Assistances (Working Title)

Public Workshop
April 14 & 15, 2023

with Valentina Desideri, Stefano Harney, Jason Hirata, Will Holder, Annick Kleizen, Cally Spooner, Eric Golo Stone, Mathilde Supe, Terre Thaemlitz, Marina Vishmidt

Gustave Caillebotte_Les raboteurs de parquet (1875)_Credit: Public Domain

No prior registration is required.

The event can also be attended online via Zoom (Password: assistant).

Day 1:

Day 2:

30 years after Andrea Frasers and Helmut Draxlers seminal project “Services” at Kunstraum Lüneburg, a two-day workshop returns to the matter of artistic labor. Only it doesn´t…directly at least. Haunting “Services” and rarely addressed, the workshop proposes to shift focus towards the one doing much of the work - the assistant.

Contemporary theater and art production, institutionalized or not, often rely on poorly paid assistants and usually unpaid interns in order to function smoothly, but to be an assistant never means the same. The assistant can be anyone and noone; they could be a 15th-century painting apprentice, dramaturge, director’s assistant, editor, stage and light technician, secretary, assistant designer, assistant conductor, production manager, production assistant, cleaning staff, student assistant, personal assistant, curatorial assistant, assistant curator, mother, emotional caretaker, professional caretaker, a friend - anyone whose job is to maintain, manage, advise and enable the work of the artist. It’s redundant to say that the line between those is never clear. 

In the art field, there are a great many maintainers of the work of others. When their work is adequately valued, a rarity still, it is usually because their necessity is articulated through a blurry framework of care and need, one that’s structurally distorted by the pervasive ableism of capitalist society. The economy of assistance is captured by a logic of exchange, and financial and personal debts are accumulated and inherited unevenly. Regardless of the type of production and conditions in which they work, the forever “young” assistant is usually expected to love their work, a work whose end takes place in the future. When that future arrives (it rarely does), the artist has to carve out and separate themselves from their (inner) assistant, a complicated psychosocial operation that often results in volatile divisions of labor. Meanwhile, the assistant is always available, flexible, ready to jump in for the sick, stressed and exhausted artist, gallerist, other assistant. It could be said that the assistant is in a constant training in the arts of service; to paraphrase Fred Moten and Stefano Harney, training becomes the discipline. If we were to acknowledge the so-called Malerschwein (painter pig) in the room, then only to understand the assistant as a symptom of their historically contingent pathology. 

The assistant who doesn’t identify with their work is often a bringer of horrible mood, which is not to be underestimated. In fact, it can serve us as a methodology; if assisting is nothing but a job, the bubble of the seemingly natural flow of artistic creativity and genius bursts. In the end, all that genius is just material for the assistant to handle and maintain. If assisting is charged with the promise of the artistic future, autonomy, and proprietary authorship, what would it mean to do this work without it? And would this shift allow for a different response to the material conditions in which we find ourselves? Bringing together theorists, assistants, and artists, and drawing on concepts such as affordance, dependance, and deproduction, the workshop aims to dwell in a suspended moment in which there’s no art, in the broken promise of life in art, where there’s only a continuous flow of work.

Organized by Tamara Antonijevic and Christopher Weickenmeier

Student Assistants: Nina Bartnitzek, Manuel Clancett, Patricia Fritze