Open letter re: conditions for performance artists’s-moca-performance

Interesting open letter by Sara Wookey, a performance artist who refused to participate in a recent Marina Abramovic piece due to perceived exploitative and unethical working conditions. Having been recently wowed by a film about Marina Abramovic, I can’t say I was surprised by the intensity of these working conditions, but Wookey’s letter highlights some important factors underlying what is often lumped in as “intensity.”

Still unpacking all this, but I think it’s very much worth reading for all artists to consider the conditions in which they work. My own experience with underground and independent music has involved similar pitiful conditions. Although in this case I would argue that exhibitors (bookers, venues) are the ones tacitly imposing the system: if your band wants to get paid or taken better care of and the venue disagrees, your band is out and any of untold numbers of other bands are taking your place. The conditions being imposed by a fellow artist – albeit an employer – while coming from a different source reflect the same imbalance of power directed at people who are doing essential work to make a show happen – the performers – but aren’t being compensated as such.

While I feel unionizing such performers seems a long road ahead, I absolutely feel this letter highlights the importance for performers – and maybe DIY musicians like me – to think hard about how they can take the first steps toward getting more appropriately compensated for their work, which after all is real hard work coming on top of real hard work in preparation.

Reposted thanks to stumbling across it on Tobi Vail’s Jigsaw Underground blog.


About Travis Bird

New Orleans musician and writer
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