"Who says there´s no money in the arts" aka "Timeline", Prospects and Concepts 2020, Art Rotterdam

The piece I exhibited during Prospects and Concepts 2020 was meant to be a culmination of my year of working with the support of a Young Talent Stipend offered generously by the Mondriaan Fond to boost my practice. I now feature on their website as part of their roster of artists: www.mondriaanfonds.nl/pcprofiel/alina-lupu/ with the following description:

"What does it mean for an artist to have a part-time job? What does that say about artistry and are you still an artist during that work? And apart from that: what does it say about the appreciation of being an artist that you, as an artist, need a part-time job? Alina Lupu (1985), who studied in Romania prior to her art academy education, psychology and sociology, started working in 2017 as a food delivery courier for Deliveroo and other online platforms. In her performances she confronts us with economic and social aspects of both online platforms and artistry.

For The Recleaning of the Rietveld Pavillion (2017), her graduation work at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, she asked a team from the online cleaning platform Helpling to clean the Rietveld pavilion. It was not only a strong nod to the performance The Cleaning of the Rietveld Pavilion by Job Koelewijn in 1992, but above all a commentary on the way in which these platforms operate: a model where the company allows self-employed people to bear the risk and (insurance) premiums themselves.

At present, through her performances, Lupu mainly exposes the merits, expectations and working conditions for artists. For that she is inspired by the book "Wages against artwork" by Leigh Claire La Berge. Lupu: “The payment of the work is one of the most important parts of the performances I make, highlighting the lack of payment for artistic work on the regular.” During Prospects & Concepts, a handyman or woman will be comissioned by Lupu to hang prints with shots from her desk. The things on the desk are the silent witnesses of the events and performances that Lupu has been working on. Actions that have never been fully documented because they often take place outside the art circuit or the classical studio."

When setting up an exhibition things go in parallel. One meets with the curator months in advance, in this case, Johan Gustavsson, of 1646 in the Hague. One sends the catalog text to print weeks in advance. And before one knows it, they still have a work which is clear in theory, but unfinished in practice. Or it´s most likely just my working method that´s so twisted as to allow for confusion up until the very last moment.

Needless to say, I had my concept completed a couple of months before Prospects and Concepts 2020. I had my printer chosen even before that. What I didn´t have was a completed piece, due to the fact that my work tends to reflect on working conditions and on artistic precarity, but, and actually more importantly, on context. I didn´t have my ending until I received the practical information for the exhibition setup from the Mondriaan Fond, which practical information contained a couple of puzzle pieces that would allow me to streamline, in conversation, what the 2019 working period has actually been about. The following message hit my Inbox on January 10th 2020:

"Herewith I send you some practical information about Prospects & Concepts, and attached a banner that you can use in your email, website or social media.

Practical information
- All participating artists will receive from us 1 crew badge, on the moment you will come to deliver your work at the Mondriaan Fund or deliver / install your work at the Van Nelle Fabriek. With this badge you have free admission to Art Rotterdam and the P&C exhibition. From Wednesday morning 5 Feb on you will really need this badge to enter the fair. Artists who are collaborating with performers or assistants, will receive a badge for them too, with which they can enter the fair for free on all days.

- All participating artists will receive 1 Art Rotterdam ticket to give away. This ticket gives free admission to the opening or to one of the other days. This ticket you will also receive on the moment you come to the Van Nelle to deliver or install your work. More tickets we do not have, but if people ask you can refer to www.artrotterdam.com for tickets for 6 until 9 Feb (online discount of €3 and students can get an extra discount on Thursday and Friday). Art Rotterdam does not sell tickets for the opening."

It was preceeded by the notice, on the 13th of December 2020, of our artist fee for participating in the show (yes, there is one!):

"Fee
In a former mail I wrote every participant can send an invoice for an artist fee. In the meantime the official artists fee is slightly increased up to 208,- euros ex btw.
Travel expenses will be reimbursed based on train tickets 2nd class or €0,19 ct per kilometer."

I found myself worrying not only about the content of the images I was about to display, but more about who would be putting up those images. The worry was first of all financial - since comissioning a wallpaper professional reaches into the 30 euros per hour (at 5 days of show and 10 images that is one painful sum to cover), comissioning a flyering company would be cheaper, but also would not guarantee weekend work - but it was also a worry which was purely conceptual in nature. Would any of these professions actually make sense in the piece? And then there was my own position in the show itself: after one year and a generous subsidy, due to the nature of my practice, I would find myself in the configuration of a show which allowed few of the people that have offered me support the means to see it, and also with financial support for putting up the show which wouldn´t really cover my working costs, nevermind my presence during 5 days of work. Funnily enough I already took out a no interest loan for this very piece. This meant the printing would be covered. But so... taking into account that the cheapest worker for my pieces tends to always be me (this being the basis of many performance practices worldwide and a fun bit of a cop out), how could I both use the conditions of the show, extract myself from the direct line of labour, highlight those conditions and their paradoxical nature for others, and get to share my show experience with those that supported my practice since its beginning?

The following description ended up being the piece itself:

10 individual wallpapers will be put up, strip by strip, with the help of paid art workers. There are 9 strips making up a wallpaper.
There is a 208 Euros participation fee given to each artist that exhibits in the Prospects and Concepts 2020.
This fee will be divided to the total amount of art workers needed to put up the wallpapers throughout the five days of the exhibition in an attempt to illustrate the fragmentation of labour that takes place during art production.

Each art worker became an official performer during the show for the duration of their labour, granting them full access to both Art Rotterdam and Prospects and Concepts 2020. Each art worker ended up receiving a fee of 2,30 Euros and the equivalent of a ticket, estimated at 19,50 Euros, for a total of 15 minutes of work.

60 strips of wallpaper, totalling almost 7 images, out of the total 90 strips, were put up by 60 individual art workers during 5 days of exhibition, making up for a loss of revenue of 1,170 Euros for the organizing team of Art Rotterdam, but also a maybe more fair artist fee than the originally proposed one of 208 Euros.

The piece got a review in de Volkskrant written by Anne van Leeuwen.

"Prospects & Concepts. Van Nelle Factory, Van Nelleweg 1. Sun-Fri 11 am - 7 pm.
Also in the Van Nelle factory: the annual exhibition of the Mondriaan Fund. Artists who have previously obtained a "Young Talent Work Contribution" from the art grant provider show their skills here. This time it is 66 artists and the extensive exhibition is crazy, with for example a skater disaster, a chocolate fountain, a living sculpture and a porn film without sex (but with a lot of shaving cream). Yes, artist Alina Lupu has a photo wallpaper installed and anyone who helps will receive a "fair share" of the fee that the artist himself received for her participation in the exhibition: 208 euros. A sharp, smart commentary within a cheerful art circus."

It got to highlight the strange economy of the arts that we operate in, where even support falls short of actual conditions, because it fails to see them, or would rather simply not aknowledge them from the get go. My hope though is that the piece will be a part of a larger dialogue within the Dutch field of art.

With special thanks to my art workers:

Thom Driver, Diego Diez, Justina Nekrašaitė, Beate Haije, Radna Rumping, Karien Beijers, Mariana Fernandez Mora, Wouter Klein Velderman, Ioana Luca, Jenny Lindblom, Sara Bjarland, Carl Johan Högberg, Roman Tkachenko, Amy Hill, Anna Reutinger, Martina Raponi, Tim de Winkel, Raluca Croitoru, Timo Demollin, Corina Burlacu, Simona Constantin, Nicole Sciarone, Diana Gheorghiu, Müge Ilmaz + 1, Liza Prins, François Girard Meunier, Joeri Bosma, Elisabeth Szota, Real Lee, Sophia Simensky, Arto Vanhasselt, Tom Vidal, Michał Dawid, Niels van Doorn, Melanie Bühler, Cathleen Owens, Wessel Baarda, Janina Fritz, Ioana Luca, Wjm Kok, Dalida + 1, Merel Zwarts + 1, Rosa´s mom and dad, Tracy Hanna, Gijs Kessler, Alina Ozerova, Benjamim Furtado Martins, Gherardo Santi + 1, Monica Mays, Zalán Szakács, Marijn Bril, Karien Beijers, + 3.

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