Deskilling or the Displacement of Skill: Artistic production outside of the studio

Day: Friday 6 April


Dave Beech (Valand Academy, University of Gothenburg and Chelsea College of Art, London)
Danielle Child (Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University)

Session Abstract

This panel proposes that in art deskilling did not happen. Labour history refers to the disappearance of skill with the arrival of mechanisation, automation and the technical division of labour. In art, we contend, skill did not disappear; rather, it was displaced from the artist to commercial producers, assistants, technicians and other fabricators. The contracting out of skilled work is not new to artistic practice; historically, it is visible in artisanal guilds and renaissance workshops. The literature of art during the 1960s suppressed contracting out and other dimensions of skilled labour to focus exclusively on the author. Those accounts that have acknowledged the apprentice, the journeyman, the studio assistant, the facilitator often limit themselves to the melodramatic revelation that artists since Duchamp do not make their own works, and express moral outrage that artists exploit unacknowledged assistance.
This panel wishes to ‘look out’ beyond the author and the studio and examine the role of the unnamed journeyman or ‘contractor’ in the creative process. Papers will examine critically those modes of art-producing labour external to the figure of the artist both before the period of so-called ‘deskilling’ and after.


Speakers and Papers

Dave Beech
(Valand Academy, University of Gothenburg and Chelsea College of Art, London) Art’s Division of Labour and the Discourses of Deskilling, Handicraft and Artistic

Danielle Child (Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University) Fabricating Value (The Invisible Hand of the Maker)

Kirsty Sinclair Dootson (History of Art, Yale University) Industrial Oil Paints and the Texture of Capitalism: Making colour in late Victorian Britain

Roxanne Ravenhill (Victoria and Albert Museum/ Royal College of Art) ‘Used by all leading Architects and Builders’: Contracting networks in Victorian London

Kim Charnley (Plymouth College of Art) Ian Burn, ‘Ex-conceptual’ Art and the Politics of Skill

Lindsay Aveilhé (Artifex Press) Lines Touching and Crossing: The role of drafter in Sol LeWitt’s wall drawings‬

Kuba Szreder (Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw) Circulation and its Discontents. Project-related modes of production and new division of artistic labour ‬‬

Felicity Allen The Disoeuvre: The complexity of an oeuvre for the marginalised artist

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