Art Workers Italia: European acknowledgment of the value of cognitive work
4 Aug 2020
Art Workers Italia [AWI] is an autonomous non-partisan group of contemporary art workers focused on cognitive work rights in the field of contemporary art, in Italy and Europe. We met members of AWI to tell us more about ‘Hyper Unionisation’.
Their manifesto states: “Our analysis of working conditions is informed by the international community of contemporary art workers, while our understanding of workers and their needs is rooted in the historical and political context of Italy, in dialogue with other initiatives supporting precarious cultural work.” Their desire is a Hyper Unionisation in both political and ideological terms.
The European scenario is threatened by the rising of far-rights movements, populisms and nationalisms that jeopardize Europe as a community. As a Union, they consider it essential to stand against these drifts. They plea for a culture of solidarity, in particular among the cultural sector. They saw their project’s aim aligned with the purpose of our Culture of Solidarity call for grants and decided to apply.
The pandemic crisis gave them reason to raise new awareness on the many issues that dwell in the Italian and European art world. Due to the current COVID19 crisis, many art workers find themselves marginalised, excluded from any social safety net, having no legal status protecting their rights.
AWI coordinates and supports individual art workers, as well as national and international non-profit associations and institutions, by developing new, digital and free tools, at an ethical, political, and legal level. They seek for a transnational and European acknowledgment of the value of cognitive work.
The coexistence of English and Italian in the name “Art Workers Italia” underlines both local and transnational perspectives. With more than 2000 members, AWI features 6 collective research panels, to study and develop concrete responses for art workers: Rights and Contract Board, Focus Italia Board, Foreign and EU Models Board, Non-Profit Associations Board, Editorial Board, Communication Board. They work in coordination with transdisciplinary Italian initiatives of cultural workers (arts, dance, music, theatre) and the wider international community of contemporary art workers in other Member States, such as Jubilee (Belgium), BBK (Germany), Common Practice (UK) and many others.
The art profession is usually characterised by discontinuity of employment, low regulation and legislation. The aim of the project is to gather a transnational networking based on cognitive work’s cultural awareness; and this, by conducting research on Italian and European history of fight for rights in the art field and comparing governance policies in the EU and non-EU cultural domain.
The first step of the project was to develop a website conceived as an open, free, multilingual (IT/EN) transnational consultancy platform. On the website it is possible to share knowledge, experiences and expertise on the art workers’ condition in Italy and Europe and take part in activities as open webinars or listen to podcasts. Italian and European experts on the economy of culture and labour law will be involved with a particular focus on art workers’ rights and LGBTQ+ community, gender issues, migrants, people with disabilities.
They are also developing a Code of Conduct specific for cultural work to acknowledge its financial and value-extraction operations and to be sent to museums, gallerists, magazines, and project spaces. Their aim is to become a reference point not only for art workers and non-profit independent organizations, but also for public and private institutions, museums, and foundations. In the long term, they hope this collective process can successfully lead to a charter on cognitive work’s recognition, endorsed and signed by all EU Member States.
Hyper Unionisation as a European cultural space
Hyper Unionisation will be a free bilingual IT/EN online platform, embedded in their website to share experiences, knowledge and expertise.
As mentioned a series of webinars and podcasts will be developed on the topics that inspire AWI as a political and social project: diversity, disability, feminism and gender studies, social classes’ differences, and the after-effects of colonialism, in solidarity with international movements against racism. This series of webinars will be developed in collaboration with experts and artist-activists in Italy, in dialogue with other European same-wavelength realities. The general public will also be encouraged to share their experiences and contribute to the construction of a common archive.
Hyper Unionisation will also host their internal researches. For example, AWI in collaboration with ACTA, is developing the first ever-made survey on contemporary art workers in Italy in order to provide quantitative and qualitative information and statistics to have a better understanding of the art sector.
Grant awarded: €13.850