Opinion

Unpaid Work Alert: Performa Seeks Writers [UPDATED]

(image by Flattr, via Flickr)
(image by Flattr, via Flickr)

Yesterday over email, Performa publicized a call they’d announced a few weeks earlier, seeking writers-in-residence for 2014. The well-known performance art biennial also produces Performa Magazine, and the online publication is seeking four yearlong writers-in-residence. As the call states:

Fellows will exhibit a wide-ranging and cross-disciplinary background with the ability to produce high-quality writing informed of themes, concepts, and issues of live art and performance with substantial academic and historical consideration.

Qualifications include “a degree or current enrollment at the graduate or postgraduate level,” “a strong background in fine arts, art history, art criticism and journalism with experience writing about art and culture,” and the ability to commit to a year of work, ultimately producing “four to six articles or features.”

The catch? The entire thing is unpaid.

Now, technically, artist and writer residencies do not need to be paid, and many of them aren’t (although some are!). But what real residences offer is freedom, the space and time to pursue one’s work further — a cabin in which to finish that novel, a studio in which to finish that painting series. The Performa Magazine position, given its specific requirements, sounds a whole lot more like an internship than a residency. And an unpaid one.

Look, we’ve had this conversation before. We’ll have it again, and keep having it, until “unpaid opportunities” (Performa’s words) such as these go away. I know there’s not exactly buckets of money to be had in performance art, but if you genuinely want to help emerging writers and critics, pay them for their work. Even a little bit goes a long way.

h/t @stacey_allan

Update, 3/30: Happily, Performa has announced that they will now be offering writers in residence honorariums.

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