Going hard

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In this section, six young visual artists who graduated from an art school in the Netherlands in 2021 write letters to each other telling how starting their lives as visual artists is going for them and what they are working on. Taking turns, one of the six artists writes to the others what is on his or her mind. The artists who participate in this column are: Lauren Raaijmakers (WdKA graduate), Leonie Fernhout (WdKA), Jelle van Kuilenburg (ArtEZ), Repelsteeltje (WdKA), Hannah Meijer (HKU) and Loes van Reijmersdal (St. Joost).

Rotterdam, Nov. 25, 2022

Hi Leonie, Jelle, Lauren, Hannah, Loes and all readers,

The other day I marveled that an established artist who constantly received major grants despite her privilege and power still chose not to put our agreements in black and white and then exploit and scam me. A friend of mine, taken aback by my surprise, remarked that that made sense: how else do you become a "great artist"?

In my experience, there is a trade-off: if you get paid well somewhere, you will also be treated well. The mentality of the people you gather around you is also the mentality of the people you attract. There are artists who, like me, seek solidarity of artists with each other and strive for not only themselves, but others, to be well paid. Thanks to platforms like Cultural Workers Unite in Rotterdam and national Platform BK, I know where to find these people.

After more bad than good experiences as a young artist, I have now realized that I should just reject many of the things I am offered and just not respond to most open calls. Furthermore, I am very critical about who I work (with), but I think I can give everyone a chance as long as I keep an eye on my own boundaries.

There are artists who, like me, seek artists' solidarity with each other

Here are some of my boundaries/rules that I have made for myself:

  • I make sure I get paid for my work.
  • The level of my work is as high as the amount I earn.
  • I treat my work as it treats me. Bad communication from the client also means bad communication on my part. I do not suddenly scrap all my plans for a project for which I am not paid by the hour.
  • I calculate in advance how much time and energy I put in in exchange for the amount of money+other things I get for the assignment. I do this by my standards, which vary by situation.
  • I pay everyone who participates in an artwork I devise, even if it slows down the pace of my practice. I communicate clearly with everyone who works for me and am transparent about the flow of money. I work with friends and people I would like to befriend. I admire the people I work with.
  • Positioning yourself, not being afraid of being hated because it is important to be friends with some, but just as important not to be associated with others.
  • Institutions are there to be exploited.
  • I am in solidarity with my fellow artists unless they clearly are not with me, or I find their views and/or behavior problematic.
  • The premise of my work is to strengthen my own community.

I treat my work as it treats me

It is now over a year after my graduation and the other day I performed one of the plays in my graduation project for the first time. I did this in Het Monument, a building in the center of Amsterdam that was squatted by the group Mokum Kraakt, during the three-day exhibition PiepKnarsKrijsKraak. It is nice that I was allowed to participate in this exhibition, because I think it is important to pay the actors, but also with this work it is important that it reaches the right audience. I received 360 euros (all of which I paid to the actors) and on top of that donations for my zines (to pay myself and the illustrator with).

I pay anyone who participates in an artwork I devise, even if it slows down the pace of my practice

Het opvoeren van de toneelstukjes was leuk maar ik werd tijdens het uitgaan beroofd van al de cash donaties die ik had gekregen voor m’n zines, waar ik ook veel te weinig van had meegenomen (eerste dag al uitverkocht), we gingen te hard met uitgaan waardoor we overlast veroorzaakten, de gasten die wij uitgenodigd hadden kwamen zaterdagavond niet binnen omdat het gebouw te vol zat. Ook was ik helemaal overwerkt na dit weekend, omdat ik datzelfde weekend de hele dag aanwezig was bij een boekenbeurs om daar een kraampje te runnen en ik organiseerde ook een workshop. Daar bovenop gingen we ook nog elke nacht uit. Het is nu twee weken terug en ik ben nog steeds aan het bijkomen 😛

My question to readers is: have you ever accidentally overworked yourself out of passion for your work (I bet you have hahah) and if so, tell about it!

Greetings, Repelsteeltje

Your response to the question can be sent to redactie@bk-info.nl

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