“Le travail à l’œuvre”

Work, somewhere between emancipation and alienation

At the back of the first exhibition room, a McDonald’s lies submerged by water. Upstairs, a poster retraces the evolution of anarchy in France. Classroom desks and benches are set out here and there. This summer, the FRAC Champagne-Ardenne is gathering artists around the notion of work… According to the Larousse dictionary, work is “human activity applied towards producing, creating or maintaining something”. Does artistic practice fall into this category? As he strolls around around a city, artist Francis Alÿs pushes a block of ice until it melts, allows a thread from his sweater to unravel until nothing is left of it, attracts metallic objects with the help of a magnet. His performances carried out in public space at the end of the 1990s bring, head to head, the action of doing something, and its result. “Sometimes, doing nothing amounts to doing something and doing something amounts to doing nothing,” he explains. Sometimes Making Something Leads to Nothing also reveals the apparent uselessness of certain acts, namely artistic ones, according to a production-driven perspective. Since the objective of artistic practice is not utility, some believe it to be futile. And unlike the case of French intermittents de spectacle (contract workers in the entertainment industry), artists’ thinking time – these pauses which interrupt active production, necessary in order for thought, ideas, and the artistic work to emerge – receive no economic recognition. The question of the artist’s status in society is also at the heart of Patricio Gil Flood’s reflections. Since 2012, the Argentinean has focused his research on work, namely the status of the worker-artist, a question that is as topical in his country of origin as in France. In his work Travailler moins pour lire plus, published in 2015, he gathers philosophical, sociological and artistic texts that oppose...

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