Jo-Anne BalcaenJob Titles by Rank and Alphabetical Order, 2014.
Photo : courtesy of the artist

Administrative Logics in the Work of Jo-Anne Balcaen and Anne-Marie Proulx

Michael DiRisio
In the thirty-five years that have passed since the publication of AA Bronson’s essay “The Humiliation of the Bureaucrat: Artist-Run Centres as Museums by Artists,” (1983) many of the working conditions and challenges faced by artists that he addressed persist, even if the forms that they take have shifted. There continues to be limited communication across the vast distances separating arts communities in Canada; practising artists still feel excluded from major galleries and museums; these institutions continue to wield significant influence over how contemporary art is circulated and understood; and arts funding continues to drive the kinds of practices that are viable. In light of this, self-awareness and irony remain important components of any self-aware art scene.1 1 - Recent texts that address the continued presence of these working conditions, as well as the nature of the shifts that have occurred in arts labour, include Troubler la fête, rallumer notre joie / To Spoil the Party, To Set Our Joy Ablaze (Montréal: Journée Sans Culture, 2015); decentre: Concerning Artist-Run Culture / à propos de centres d’artistes (Toronto: YYZBOOKS, 2008); Jo-Anne Balcaen’s self-published Survey for Cultural Workers / Questionnaire pour travailleurs culturels, which I discuss in this essay; and Institutions by Artists (Vancouver: Fillip Editions, 2012) which includes an essay in which AA Bronson revisits his original text.

In reflecting on artists who address administrative logics in the arts, such irony is particularly crucial, if only because both administration and logic can be painfully boring subjects to consider. Yet, through this self-awareness, these artists call for an examination of the often-unquestioned structures within which they work, while undermining the authority that such structures attempt to project.

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This article also appears in the issue 94 - Labour

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