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HomeArt and work - Esse journal

Art and work - Esse journal

Art et travail

Revue « esse »

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Published on Friday, February 02, 2018


De la révolution industrielle aux années 1980, les heures de travail n’ont cessé de baisser, confirmant les prévisions des hommes politiques et économistes des années d’après-guerre. Bientôt la semaine de travail serait composée de 15 heures. L’automatisation et la révolution technologique ne se sont pourtant pas ajustées à cette baisse qui semble inéluctable et qui serait garante d’une meilleure répartition des richesses. Le temps de travail ne cesse d’augmenter, de se morceler et de se précariser. Dans ce contexte, comment les artistes s'emparent-ils du sujet ? Peuvent-ils être des modèles pour imaginer une vie sans travail ou sont-ils aussi aliénés que les travailleurs du capitalisme ? 



Between the industrial revolution and the 1980s, labour time dropped precipitously, confirming the predictions of postwar politicians and economists, and making the arrival of a fifteen-hour workweek seem inevitable. In the end, however, automation and the technological revolution did not lead to the expected reduction in work, or to the more equal distribution of wealth that was supposed to accompany it. Instead, these predictions became utopias as work time steadily increased and jobs became more segmented and precarious. Today’s labour mutations now seem bent on re-creating working conditions worthy of the pre-industrial era. For example, platform capitalism (“uberization”) made possible by new technologies has resulted in the reappearance of piecework, which was once considered obsolete. Capitalism has also created false needs and “bullshit jobs” with no social utility,  even though some of them are very well paid. Speculative  forms of work dangerously engulf employees in a chain of production whose risks and outcomes they no longer understand. Finally, invisible work has never been so widespread.

In his analysis of creative work, French sociologist Pierre-Michel Menger focuses on the ever- shrinking difference between artists who flourish in working conditions that are uncertain, flexible, and subject to professional insecurities and new images of the ideal worker. Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello have similarly examined how, since the mid-1970s, a “new spirit of capitalism” has absorbed social and artistic critique as a means of imposing a new labour organization that further encourages precariousness and flexibility. In so doing, what remains of critical art has also apparently been swept away. Free and unproductive time has been “economized,” to use philosopher André Gorz’s term, thus leading to the transfer of domestic labour—unpaid activities (shopping, housecleaning, and so on)—from the private to the public, economic sphere. Such metamorphoses have certainly had an impact on artists’ commercial and non-commercial activities, be they inspired by life as a worker or the suffering related to economic survival. Often forced to work several jobs in addition to their primary vocation, artists have become veritable operations managers. Do the visibility provided by networks that make unproductive periods more tangible, the fear of refusing an exhibition proposal, or the pressure exerted by galleries on creative production still leave room for non-commercial or unprofitable work?

Esse arts + opinions invites authors and artists to propose essays concerning these and other issues associated with the metamorphoses of work. How do artists capture the act of labour? Could they serve as models for imagining a life without work, or are they as alienated as any worker under capitalism? Essays may, for example, consider the absurdity of certain tasks (jobs that produce no meaning or social utility); alienation and boredom on the job; passive or active resistance (sabotage, obstructionism, infiltrations, strikes); celebrating non-work or idleness; art forms that are aesthetically comparable to work activities (bureaucracy, protocols); fictional businesses; the effects of space on activity (open space, social and hierarchical relations); automation and the robotization of human activity; human resources; gender relations; the labouring body; job-related illnesses (burnout); work-related utopias; the impact of changes in work on productivity; mass appropriation of the means of production; or domestic work. This is also an occasion to explore artists’ working conditions and their claims as workers. For example, how do artists combine paid activities not directly related to their creative practices with their art activities?

Submission guidelines

Send your text (1,000 - 2,000 words, footnotes included) in US letter format (doc,  docx, or rtf) to redaction@esse.ca

 before April 1, 2018.

Please include a short  biography (30-50 words), an abstract of the text (80-100 words), as well as postal and e-mail addresses. We also welcome submissions (reviews, essays, analyses of contemporary art issues) not related to a particular theme (annual deadlines: September 1, January 10, and April 1). An acknowledgement of receipt will be sent within 7 days of the deadline. If you have not been notified, please contact us to ensure your text has been received.

Editorial policy

1.   Esse arts + opinions, published three times a year by Les éditions esse, is a contemporary art magazine that focuses on contemporary art and multidisciplinary practices (visual arts, performance, video, current music and dance, experimental theatre). It offers in-depth analyses of current art works and artistic and social issues by publishing essays that deal with art and its interconnections within various contexts.

2.  Submissions are accepted three times a year: January 10, April 1 and September 1. The texts can be submitted for one of the following 4 sections:

  • Feature: essays between 1,000 and 2,000 words (including notes). The guideline regarding the theme is available online 4 to 6 months prior to the deadline: http://esse.ca/en/callforpapers
  • Articles: essays, articles or interviews between 1,000 and 1,500 words (including notes).
  • Short Reviews: reviews of exhibitions, events or publications (maximum 500 words, without footnotes).
  • Long Reviews: reviews of exhibitions or events (maximum 950 to 1,000 words, without footnotes).

3.   With the exception of the expressed consent of the Editorial Board, the writer agrees to submit a previously unpublished, original text.

4.  All articles are reviewed by the Board, which reserves the right to accept or refuse a submitted article. Selection criteria are based on the quality of the analyze and writing, the relevance of the text in the issue (in regards to the theme) and on the relevance of the chosen artworks and artists. A text can also be rejected due to the very high volume of submissions for a specific issue. Selection of articles may take up to 6 weeks after submission by the writer. The Board’s decision is final. A refused text will not be re-evaluated.

5.   With the exception of the expressed consent of the Board, the Board does not consider articles that may represent a potential conflict of interest between the writer and the content of the article (i.e., a text written by the curator of an exhibition).

6.  The writers whose pieces are selected commit to format their text according to the typographic standards of esse, following the guidelines sent to them with the publishing contract.

7.  With the respect to the vision and style of the writer, the Board reserves the right to ask for corrections and modifications to be made to ensure overall clarity, and coherence of an article.

8.   Conditionally accepted articles will be up for discussion between the writer and the Board. If changes are requested by the Board, the writer will have 15 (fifteen) days to carry these out.

9.  All costs of typographical correction of the author's text shall be borne by esse except the author's corrections, if applicable, which shall be borne by the author.

Editorial Board

  • Dominique Allard
  • Sylvette Babin
  • Anja Bock
  • Ariane De Blois
  • Invité.e.s : Steve Lyons et Tamar Tembeck


  • Montreal, Canada


  • Sunday, April 01, 2018


  • art, travail, labeur, artiste, art contemporain


  • Sylvette Babin
    courriel : s [dot] babin [at] esse [dot] ca

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Nathalie Desmet
    courriel : nathalie [dot] gm [dot] desmet [at] gmail [dot] com


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Art and work - Esse journal », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Friday, February 02, 2018, https://calenda.org/431518

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