Living Precarious Lives? Time and Temporality in Visual Arts Careers
Although precarity has always been a characteristic feature of artistic labour, many critics now claim it is becoming more widespread and engrained. However, while the idea of precarity offers a good descriptor of the conditions of artistic labour, it also has its limits. Firstly, it tends to gloss over social differences in the distribution of precariousness. And secondly, precarity tends to imply a universal condition of ‘temporal poverty’ where all social experience appears dominated by the frenetic demands of a speeded-up, unstable and fragmented social world. In this article, we show how these two omissions are interlinked and prevent a more nuanced understanding of time in artistic labour. Drawing from findings from empirical research with working visual artists in the Midlands of the UK, we propose three schematic ways of thinking about the organisation of time and temporality in routine artistic practice. We name these three temporal contexts ‘the artistic career’; ‘the time of making art’ and ‘the temporality of the work’. By researching how artists might be differently positioned in relation to time, we suggest, we not only obtain a more precise understanding of how professional artists’ lives are organised, managed and lived, but also a more distinct understanding of precarity itself.
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