Transmission Annual #4: Labour, Work, Action

Cover of Transmission #4 - Labour, Work, Action
Title:Transmission #4: Labour, Work, Action
Series Title:Transmission
Publisher: Artwords Bookshop
Michael Corris, Jaspar Joseph-Lester, Sharon Kivland with guest editors Maureen Connor and Elizabeth Legge
Author(s):Contributors: Ivana Bago, Jordan Bear, Pascal Beausse, Bernard Brunon, Pavel Büchler, Armin Chodzinski, Annie Coll, Michael Corris, Janeil Engelstad, Francesco Finizio, Charlie Gere, Jerome Harrington, David Hopkins, Shannon Jackson, Vincent Victor Jouffe, the Pedagogy Group, Elizabeth Legge, Dale MacFarlane, Roberto Martinez, Mary-Lou Lobsinger, Hester Reeve, Oliver Ressler, John Paul Ricco, Abigail Satinsky, Juliet Steyn
Publication date:May, 2014
Print ISBN:9781906441319
Format: 195mm x 130mm
Number of pages:76pp

Transmission Annual #4: Labour, Work, Action is framed by Hannah Arendt’s reflections on three important themes of human agency. Arendt refused to be called a philosopher, for philosophy, she said, deals with the singular, while she addressed the plural, that humans not man inhabit the world. She proposes that freedom is constructed in community, in common space, and it is associative, performative, and public. In The Human Condition (1958), she develops her theory of political action, drawing out the distinctions between what is social and what is political, and then what is labour, what is work, what is action (and thus, how is agency achieved, the capacity to act, to make choices, undetermined by supposedly natural forces). Arendt proposes three important human activities: labour, work, and political action. She is as materialist as Karl Marx: labour is a biological activity, a vital necessity operating under constraint.

The goal of production is to produce, and there is a constant exchange of objects. It is never-ending, consumed quickly, making a slave of the labourer. Work may be thought of differently, most usefully with the term ‘œuvre’: as what lasts or remains, as ‘technique’ and poiesis, as what is not spent or wasted and is transmitted; a ‘common world’ where life unfolds and objects endure beyond the act of their making. Transmission, in Arendt’s sense, is a struggle against death, and thus already a form of liberty. It is, one might say, the distinction between what is kept and what is thrown away. Yet this freedom is only partial, for work is still instrumental, determined by causes and ends. To work and labour, like Arendt, we add an essential action, when ‘something new is started which cannot be expected from whatever happened before’, asking what role might be played by the artist or work of art, and this we propose, makes for agents and agency.

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Dr Sharon Kivland is a Reader in Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University.Find out more about Sharon Kivland’s work here.

Hester Reeve is a performance artist who works with Live Art actions, philosophy, dialogues, drawing and photography. Hester is a Reader in Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University.