João Enxuto and Erica Love, 2016

The phase of the lifecycle that we refer to as “labor” considers how work is organized for a project. For example, if you are working within a discipline like printmaking or print media, you may have the skills to create an edition of prints alone without another person’s help. You might ask your friends to help you pull an edition of large scale prints. If you are working in a collective, then the labor to create and distribute a set of posters might be shared among members of the collective. Or you might propose projects that must be fabricated elsewhere, which require the labors of others in order to realize your vision. Your labor practices determine the speed and scale of your production.

You might wonder what allows you to claim authorship for a project—Is it having an idea? Doing the physical labor required to make the project? Speaking about it in public and in the media? Maybe it is all of these things? What is it? Artists João Enxuto and Erica Love talked to us about the moment when they began to work together…

Love: We started working together, we say in 2009 but it happened much more organically before that, where we would just help each other with one another’s projects and get so involved that the ownership of the project would become unclear. Like who actually was behind it. So it just kind of happened naturally. Especially when we were doing video work which takes a whole crew, it would be a whole crew of two of us [doing everything, all the roles]. That is kind of how it began.

Enxuto: And to avoid the whole ownership issue, we just started working together and also we kind of synthesized individual interests into a new project.

Enxuto and Love embody the capacity that we call “coordination / collective action: I am reliably able to take powerful, life-affirming actions rooted in shared values and vision in teams, partnerships, and alliances. I remain responsive to evolving conditions.” As Enxuto and Love say, they find share values in working as a team as they are able to “synthesize individual interests into a new project.” When Enxuto says “to avoid the whole ownership issue,” he is referring to the historical and contemporary debates surrounding the relationship between art and labor. See Is Art a Commodity? for more. In this chapter, we will explore the ways that artists organize labor in their projects, and how this impacts the quality of labor itself. We will discuss the pains and pleasures of labor, and how these are reproduced in worker cooperatives and in spaces of learning.

Download the full chapter: Labor as a PDF

Download Teacher/Facilitator Guides

  1. Future Project: Labor (worksheet)
  2. Past Project: Labor (worksheet)
  3. Historical Consciousness (worksheet)
  4. Aqueous Event (activity)
  5. Group Leadership Portrait (activity)
  6. Working Styles (activity)
  7. Threeing: Cultivating Creativity (activity)
  8. Dot Voting (activity)
  9. Who + Do (activity)
  10. Threads of a Strong Community Fabric (worksheet)
  11. Make a Project that Includes the Labors of Others (assignment)