_Schwebel_Méditation culturelle
Joshua SchwebelMédiation culturelle, view of the entry office, Fonds régional d’art contemporain de Lorraine, Metz, 2017.
Photo : courtesy of the artist

From Self-Exploitation to Collective Accountability

Dominique Sirois-Rouleau
Dominique Sirois-Rouleau
A confirmed infiltrator, artist Joshua Schwebel approaches art as a tool for critical dialogue. His works challenge artistic impunity, creating spaces that are at odds with existing realities, in which sensitive questions can be openly addressed. By actively intervening in the habitus of the art field, Schwebel sheds light not only on the belief system that shapes it but also on its disconcerting precarity. Challenging the definitions and uses of art to reveal their ethical and moral paradoxes, he does more than simply raise awareness; he calls for cultural workers to have greater accountability and responsibility with a view to restructuring the system in which they work. In this spirit, in Médiation culturelle, presented in 2017 in the exhibition Ressources humaines,1 1 - Curated by Virginie Jourdain and presented from June 23 to November 5, 2017 at the Fonds régional d’art contemporain de Lorraine in Metz. he undertakes a comprehensive analysis of power structures within the art field in view of their reform. The valorization of cultural work that he envisions highlights both the duty of stakeholders in the field to participate in the restructuring of these business models and their power to revolutionize the system.

Following an invitation by curator Virginie Jourdain, Schwebel familiarized himself with the terms of governance specific to the Fonds régional d’art contemporain de Lorraine (FRAC), the host of the exhibition. At the time, the organization had been without leadership for a year. This administrative shortfall, as well as the FRAC’s feminist leanings, led him to examine the working conditions of its personnel. He discovered that, to save money, the reception staff members were employed as casual workers hired through an employment agency for general hospitality staff. Engaged on the same terms as airport or hotel receptionists and hostesses, they were recognized neither for their mediation work nor as an integral part of the FRAC team. Even though no specific skill or artistic knowledge was required for their positions, they nevertheless worked at the forefront of exhibition mediation. They were the ones who interacted with visitors, answered questions, explained artists’ practices, and contextualized the artworks.

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This article also appears in the issue 94 - Labour

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