By Roger Fähndrich OOC

Work O’holla I love work. It gives me satisfaction to know I can grasp something emerging from the chaos that is life and break it down into a singled out and solvable task. Nothing feels better than a clear task that I constructed for myself. I can do this – and in a good way.

Mora L.Y. The fact that work creates value and meaning and that this generates self-worth is logic in a capitalist system. You don’t need to be a workaholic to feel this. Most people get narcissistic kicks from accomplishing tasks, from crossing something off their to-do lists.

Lay-zee I get a kick from laying in bed. I think work as a concept should be demolished. It creates so much stress, so much anxiety. Maybe just still not enough. The burn-outs don’t last long enough. Resocialising and curing people means to put them back to work.

Work O’holla Well, I can only talk about my experience: when there is a lot of work – which means, a lot of problems – I almost spiritually disappear. It’s a state of being that is completely detached and totally engaged at the same time. It’s kind of freeing. Free from myself.

Lay-zee Is there a self, anyway?

Mora L.Y. Let’s not be distracted by irrelevant questions. Our highly individualised societies, and present narratives of a ‘good life’, create a lot of pressure. One has to solve not only economic survival but also organise and make sense of life by oneself. Contemporary politics has to be invested in creating equality in order to grant everybody autonomy and fair access to society. But since life is a precarious mystery, everybody has different preconditions, and therefore, it is not possible to create a just society through competition.

Lay-zee I hate competition.

Work O’holla Well, yes. Me too, and at the same time, I love it. But how to think about work outside of competition?

Lay-zee Leave competition behind. Humans are highly motivated to cooperate with each other.

Mora L.Y. I fear it’s not that easy.

Work O’holla Well, today we ask: “How can we create conditions that allow us all to make work?” When I thought about this question I was afraid for, if everybody had work, would there be enough work left for me? Once work is evenly distributed, I might lose my profound reason to exist. I would lose all the ways through which I magically disappear. That would be really depressing.

Mora L.Y. Uh, bollocks! As an artist you know that there is endless work you can make that nobody will take away from you. Doesn’t your fear merely speak about not gaining recognition?

Work O’holla As well, of course. But it’s also about the things I can do that others can’t and that this creates a feeling of superiority which is just… so nice. Then of course, if that feeling is recognised by others, it gets very sad. It’s all connected and very complex, you know.

Mora L.Y. I know.

Work O’holla Of course you do. We all do. We know that. But imagine there are these conditions that everybody can make work.

Lay-zee Are we talking about everybody in the arts?

Mora L.Y. Yes!

Work O’holla Imagine these conditions were given. What does this work look like? As if it would be of great importance that everybody expresses themselves through art.

Lay-zee Does anyone actually still talk about self-expression? Feels a bit outdated. Nowadays we just talk about work, don’t we?

Work O’holla If you prefer! But imagine: In 2021, 301 master students graduated from KASK in Ghent. I counted them with my finger on my laptop screen, so the number might not be precise. Anyway, that’s quite a number. I don’t know how many art schools there are in Europe, but Ghent has two of them. So, what to do with all these people? Of course, they face precarity in different ways, some have it easier because the field might offer something to them… but others… well others studied useless things like painting or autonomous design… Then you have all these people with their Instagram profiles trying to catch the attention span given to people on Instagram.

Lay-zee It’s a logical consequence of the premises and promises of our time that so many people can study art. The means are there, even if they are precarious and 1) they are extremely scarce compared to the vast means that exist in the business world. I am not talking about the few Koons who sell for millions, but about the local scene which is dependent on state money that is 2) constantly threatened by conservative and right-wing politicians. All that leads to the question of how to justify art 3) towards oneself but mainly 4) towards others who seem to have a certain power over what art is. So, I would like to discuss: What is art? And more importantly: Does art need a reformulation, a profound rethinking and reorganisation considering these factors?

Mora L.Y. I witnessed a shift in myself from being interested in art, to being interested in artists. They build life practices and ways of being. Ways of being in the world that also create a certain kind of people. Ways of being that create artists. I’m very interested in the people who choose to make art. It’s a fragile position they put themselves in.

Lay-zee If I had not ended up in the arts, I would have become religious.

Work O’holla Reworking the definition of art is constantly happening. Somehow the evolution of art got stuck because of its democratisation. Every single artist defines what they do themselves, and then they have to fit into the framing of the field, into societal definitions.

Mora L.Y. These are the discrepancies. Either you give up your ideals, or you give up your need for recognition. Or, you become this strange double agent, this schizophrenic being. Artists are trained in seeing things differently. But if they see things too differently, it’s too far off. So, what works better is that they orient themselves towards trends.

Work O’holla A trend that has almost become fundamental is to say, artists see things differently and that’s how they can change society.

Lay-zee But just because this is a trend doesn’t mean it’s not valuable.

Work O’holla I didn’t say that. I mean, I also believe that in a way.

Lay-zee Do you? I mean, I don’t really believe that, but maybe it has become so normal for me. I just see things differently.

Mora L.Y. If you don’t, there’s the internet. You can go and educate yourself until you see things differently. Or, most probably, you go there to reassure yourself of your stupidity.

Work O’holla Did we get off topic? Anyway, since you mention the internet: there is this cyber dream that life gets very easy and nobody has to work anymore due to technological progress. Everything is automated; humans are living in a kind of heaven – in a matrix of bliss.

Mora L.Y. Well, who are those people who get access to this matrix of bliss? And who are the ones that don’t?

Work O’holla Ok, ok. We can just talk about work. If everybody had work, would it then be a kind of matrix of bliss? Because this work would be meaningful and create resonance in the world?

Lay-zee Due to the solidarity in the Brussels art scene there is a lot of work done to bridge art schools with the field. Maybe the metaphor of the bridge is not what we are looking for. Maybe it is more about work in the gaps. OOC is about the gap-people. Precarity makes me a gap person: I find myself in a constant in-between. In between projects, in between people, in between ideas, and so on. Instead of seeing this as my failure and hating myself because I have no steady and secure income, instead of seeing it as fragmentation and distraction from concentration, I could see it as an expertise. Gap knowledge. Why should I bridge over a reality if I can make living in it enjoyable?

Mora L.Y. Make it comfortable in uncomfortable positions.

Lay-zee OOC could be a programme or a practice, maybe the formation or even institutionalisation of a solidarity already practiced in the art field. Something that is practiced by everyone. An embodied almanac.

All together sing:

Let’s sleep the burnout away! But who, yes who’s gonna pay?

The cake gets smaller every day. Should we fight for the crumbs

Or watch it decay?

Work O’holla Some say, to create something new we need to unlearn stuff.

Lay-zee Yeah. Unlearn. Let go of what doesn’t serve you anymore.

Work O’holla How do I know what serves me and what doesn’t?

Lay-zee Mmm. You feel it.

Mora L.Y. Oh, as a true individual, you feel what is good for you. Sounds like privileged talk. That’s not what unlearning is about. In a world in which everything needs to make sense under a certain type of logic, we need to unlearn that certain type of logic and the way it manifests inside of us. That’s unlearning. The way things manifest in us. The way evil things are in us. Unlearning then would encompass an inquiry of that which is evil in us: fuck the capitalist inside of us, and the white supremacist and the sexist and so on.

Lay-zee But these are systemic problems. I mean to claim they are evils inside which is kind of strangely psycho-Christian.

Mora L.Y. Sounds like privileged talk to me.

Work O’holla Maybe this is privileged talk then.

Lay-zee Fine for me.

Work O’holla Alright, so we take it as the working hypothesis that there are evil things. The evil things are responsible for creating an unfair world?

Lay-zee It’s crap but, let’s go with it. I am curious to see if we find a way out of that trap.

Work O’holla First we have to define evil. It’s always good to have a strong antagonist. It makes a good story. Our longings and cravings will have a direction and meaning if we know what evil is. You know, ‘live’ is the verb for life and l-i-v-e spelled backwards is…

Lay-zee Evil.

Work O’holla Exactly! Evil! Evil! Evil! Do you feel the desire in that? The fire, the fight… Oh, can you pass me the lighter please?

Lay-zee Here you go.

Work O’holla Thank you. (inhales eagerly from the joint that goes around)

Mora L.Y. Can I rephrase your discourse around ‘the evil’ like this: If there is an antagonist, it’s easier to get together?

Work O’holla Yes. In that way, we can maybe crawl out of the rhetoric impasse of good and bad.

Lay-zee But what are the characteristics of this antagonist? For example, neoliberalism seems not to work as an antagonist. It’s too abstract. Hyper-objects are bad villains. Too overwhelming, not graspable.

Work O’holla No, but it’s a hard thing to describe and live the good. The antagonist serves as the reason for the protagonist to emerge.

Lay-zee Ok, let’s talk about the quality of being together. Is it hard to collectivise because we would have to unlearn the base of our self? I mean, the idea that every individual is special and unique.

Mora L.Y. Can you stop bogarting that joint, my friend? Thanks. (inhales joyfully). Autonomy and individuality are what artists were fighting for and what brought us apart from each other.

Work O’holla Often after working in collective projects, I feel a sadness of separation. At day time, there is a group of people dreaming about utopic ways of being together, a common economy about how love would change the world if it were taught in schools. But at night, after a beer together, everybody goes back home. Back to their individual unit, governed by the structures that produce these units.

Mora L.Y. Maybe you have to unlearn this way of storytelling. At least something happened during the working hours.

Work O’holla My only fear is: that our doing is obsolete, a delusion. Because it happens within the logic of work, and it can’t get out of that logic. That work is the only way I relate to the world and others.

Lay-zee So melodramatic. Maybe you need a lover. Are you alone?

Work O’holla Yes, I am! That’s why I am saying it. How many friends do you have you don’t work with?

Mora L.Y. But this whole notion that things will be fine if you are in a romantic relationship is also something to unlearn, no? I mean, really.

Lay-zee I am not sure about the term ‘unlearning’. I understand, it emerges in a time where many will agree that there is a limit to economic growth and that the threshold is already transgressed. So, there is a drive to do less: to unlearn production. But then, would degrowth be a more fitting word? Somebody once showed me a pdf. An artist publication about degrowth.

Mora L.Y. I did. LZ: I never read it. WO: Surprise.

Lay-zee Who reads all these artist publications? Maybe it’s time to unlearn making them!

Mora L.Y. Maybe they are a symptom of this double agent mindset: Practices that don’t have a form yet in the world need to be printed into form. And politicians can sleep soundly because the money given to artists found ways to manifest.

Lay-zee But think about ecology: all the paper, all the trees needed for those publications that lousily and loosely put together concepts that are already described in much more concise ways by people like Arendt, Butler, Chomsky, Debord, E… What’s a good one for E?

Mora L.Y. Eeeeee.... Everyone!

Lay-zee Federici, Foucault, Freud…

Mora L.Y. uuuuuh… Freud??

Lay-zee …I know my favorite for Z already! Guilty pleasure…

Work O’holla Can we go back to the topic? I like to make publications. Not so much to read them but more because they offer possibilities to write. I love language. It gives me a feeling of order. I can control the sentences unfolding under my fingers.

Mora L.Y. I think our discussion will never be published.

Lay-zee I think I am high.

Work O’holla Yeah.

Silence, all stare into nothingness.

No music. The audience has left and somebody is wiping the floor.

RESHAPE Tarot Deck

RESHAPE (REflect, SHAre, Practice, Experiment) is a research and development project that brings together arts organisations from Europe and the South Mediterranean to jointly create innovative organisational models and reflect on concrete answers to crucial challenges related to the production, distribution and presentation of contemporary art practices. The aim of RESHAPE is to imagine an alternative to the European arts ecosystem by rethinking its instruments and collaborative models.

Two working groups and a number of artists have created a tarot deck. The deck is re-interpreted and translated from the Rider-Waite tarot cards in accordance with specific aspects of either trans-post-national art practice or collective governance. They create a full major arcana of 22 cards and can be used to stimulate debate and for reflection. RESHAPE is co-funded by the EU’s *Creative Europe Programme.

RESHAPE also offers a freely downloadable book titled RESHAPE. A Workbook to Reimagine the Art World.