Wages against artwork : decommodified labor and the claims of socially engaged art / Leigh Claire La Berge.

by La Berge, Leigh Claire [author.]Looking glass.

Publisher: Durham, North Carolina : Duke University Press, 2019.Description: xiii, 261 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm.ISBN: 9781478004820.Subject(s): Art and social actionLooking glass | Art and societyLooking glass | Art -- Economic aspectsLooking glass | Art -- Study and teaching -- Social aspects | Artists and communityLooking glass | Artists -- Political activity -- History -- 21st century | Social practice (Art)Looking glassNote: Includes bibliographical references and index.
Item type Home library Collection Class number Status Date due Barcode Item reservations
Long loan Chelsea College of Arts
Main collection
Printed books 701.03 LAB (Browse shelf (Opens below)) Available 54259780
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

The last twenty years have seen a rise in the production, circulation, and criticism of new forms of socially engaged art aimed at achieving social justice and economic equality. In Wages Against Artwork Leigh Claire La Berge shows how socially engaged art responds to and critiques what she calls decommodified labor--the slow diminishment of wages alongside an increase in the demands of work. Outlining the ways in which socially engaged artists relate to work, labor, and wages, La Berge examines how artists and organizers create institutions to address their own and others' financial precarity; why the increasing role of animals and children in contemporary art points to the turn away from paid labor; and how the expansion of MFA programs and student debt helps create the conditions for decommodified labor. In showing how socially engaged art operates within and against the need to be paid for work, La Berge offers a new theorization of the relationship between art and contemporary capitalism.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

Table of contents provided by Syndetics

  • Preface: The Argument (p. ix)
  • Acknowledgments (p. xi)
  • Introduction: Socially Engaged Art and Decommodified Labor (p. 1)
  • 1 Art Student, Art Worker: The Decommodified Labor of Studentdom (p. 34)
  • 2 Institutions as Art: The Collective Forms of Decommodified Labor (p. 75)
  • 3 Art Worker Animal: Animals as Socially Engaged Artists in a Post-Labor Era (p. 118)
  • 4 The Artwork of Children's Labor: Socially Engaged Art and the Future of Work (p. 157)
  • Epilogue: Liberal Arts (p. 198)
  • Notes (p. 205)
  • Bibliography (p. 239)
  • Index (p. 249)

Reviews provided by Syndetics


In this provocative treatise, La Berge (English, Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY) examines the rapid shifts that constitute the dynamics between art, labor, and social change. Her premise is that cultural workers' downward spiral of earning power is accompanied by the ever-increasing demand for their productivity. She names this phenomenon "decommodified labor." La Berge argues that socially engaged art built on social justice platforms can destabilize traditional structures of economy and autonomy by creating independent structures that critique current trends and encourage economic equality. She presents intriguing chapters on art student workers, artist-formed collectives, animals as socially engaged artists, and the artwork of children, looking at works outside the mainstream to sidestep the downward spiral of the economic burden of working in the arts. This timely book serves as a compelling starting point for discussions about the inequality and economic divide that are invisible yet dominant in contemporary art. A must read for those engaged in cultural production, the book includes valuable and extensive notes and some black-and-white illustrations. Summing Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals. --Judy Natal, Columbia College Chicago

Author notes provided by Syndetics

Leigh Claire La Berge is Assistant Professor of English at Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York, author of Scandals and Abstraction: Financial Fiction of the Long 1980s, and coeditor of Reading Capitalist Realism.