[-empyre-] the old payment problem

hi everyone

i think this is my first post to this list, so hello and thanks for the interesting discussion, and melinda for the space.

like many others i sent melinda a note off-list about the issue of paying artists, and she has asked me to send my thoughts to the list, because i come from a 'curator/writer perspective'. i do this reluctantly, largely because i simply don't have time at the moment to engage in an extended dialogue, and i always feel like a post to a list is a promise for such an exchange that i'm likely not be able to deliver on (trying to finish my phd and all that).

and i'm certainly not opposed to artists agitating for payment.

i should also note that i speak from the perspective of working at a small contemporary art space, centre for contemporary photography (http://www.ccp.org.au) 2 days per week, and what i have to say is my own opinion & may not represent ccp's 'official' position (as well as working at ccp, i teach sessionally at 2 universities 2 other days per week, and curate and write on a freelance basis).

anyway, at ccp, we currently pay the princely sum of A$100 to artists for monthly show in our modest e-Media gallery space; CD-ROM, net-art or otherwise... (if you're not famililar with it, the e-Media gallery a marginal space to the main galleries, but is one of, if not the, oldest continuing space for exhibiting digital art in Australia, & has a dedicated audience). without wishing to defend such pittence, it must be noted that one of the other (much larger) spaces in the gallery, the Project Space (usually for photos or video), is a *rental* space, where artists (unfortunately) currently have to pay $165 week to show their work... (btw, everyone is given the same publicity, including the preparation of a fold out colour program brochure, and opening, etc.). so here's a case where hopefully it's not true that digital artists are being discriminated against.

rest assured that low/non-existent artist fees (or rental costs!) are a recognised problem at ccp, and this *is* often communicated to funding bodies - whose funding typically remains static (which means we're going backwards in real terms). it seems to me that a cultural shift is required in Australia from funding bodies if artists are to get paid properly to exhibit, and ditto if artists are to be paid for their work to be reproduced in underfunded art mags (and also if workers at most contemporary art spaces are to be paid for anything like their actual time & skills. on this point, fyi, I basically do not get paid to curate the emedia space, since i do it in my own time at home. and for the record, writers are not always paid either. being a freelance art writer or curator in australia you stand about as much chance of making a living as you do being an artist... !) why is this allowed to happen? as we know, the mere fact that we do it so uncomplainingly seems to enable our exploitation.


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