In the context of the exhibition On the New – Young Scenes in Vienna at Belvedere 21, Kevin Space invites the initiative WAGES FOR WAGES AGAINST to work together on a collaborative project. Launched in March 2017, WFWA is a Switzerland-based initiative acting for the systematic remuneration of artists in Switzerland and beyond. Inspired by the campaign Working Artists and the Greater Economy (W.A.G.E.) in the USA, WFWA aims to raise awareness of precarious and exploitative working conditions in the field of art through public and collective debates and questions the underpinnings of the current situation.
For their contribution at Belvedere 21, Kevin Space and WFWA have decided to shift their focus onto one important rotor of the local art scene(s), addressing working conditions and economies relevant to independent art spaces in Vienna. Therefore, these spaces were invited to participate in a survey including questions around their economic situation as well as the motivations, concerns and structures lying behind their work. Displaying the results of the survey on the walls of the provided exhibition space, the improvised installation is punctually interrupted by highlighted quotes of the spaces’ replies, testifying to the precarious yet indispensable and cheerful activities within their spaces. The installation, however, makes no claim to completeness, nor does it offer any exact analysis of the data: rather, it incorporates the critical, at times humorous voices of Vienna-based spaces, reflecting on the economic entanglements they’re subjected to. In a similar way, the email replies of those spaces who decided not to partake in the inquiry, are included in the exhibition space, thus adding to the survey by opening up the subject to a broader field of debate.
At the center of the exhibition space, a small table introduces further initiatives connected to this collective undertaking: magazines and merchandise material of IG Bildende Kunst’s campaign pay the artist now! specify the activities of the advocacy group of visual artists in Austria. Committed to the establishment of appropriate artist fees since 2016, the IG Bildende Kunst initiates debates around cultural politics and intervenes in decision-making processes that affect the work and lives of visual artists.
A pile of business cards referencing the Independent Space Index is displayed on the same table, introducing the loose association of independent art spaces in Vienna. Formed in late 2017 as a response to recent right-wing politics and impending public cultural funding cuts in Austria, the Independent Space Index acts as a platform for monthly meetings, nurturing exchange, transparency and solidarity amongst the local spaces. While the installation focuses on the “business” strategies and conditions of independent art spaces in Vienna, the displayed business cards will soon be available in various spaces, pointing towards the solidarity structures of informal low-key networks and thereby demonstrates the importance of fostering a joint debate.
Additionally, the publication Wages for Wages Against — a subject-related collection of texts, interviews, calls and manifestos by artists and activists — is equally on display, and mirrors and consolidates the claims of the eponymous campaign. Though founded within a specific local context, the initiative WFWA addresses ubiquitous issues and, therefore, may easily build bridges and expand internationally –– in Vienna’s local art scene, perhaps, or elsewhere.
We would like to thank Vasilena Gankovska and Jelena Micić from IG Bildende Kunst as well as our colleagues who participated in the survey (or not): for their time and support, and for making Vienna’s art scene as striking as it is.