Sarah Staton: voluntary work

An introduction to the complex and sometimes perplexing acquisition of the stuff that claims to keep the world turning  – M O N E Y.  Written by artist Sarah Staton.

Looking backwards for a moment to the beginning of the industrial revolution when barter was big and the wage economy was in its infancy:  workers commonly took home a proportion of their pay in kind; shipbuilders legitimately kept chips of wood for their fires, and small pieces for building with, (dockside housing in eighteenth century Portsmouth was constructed entirely from lengths of wood under a meter long).

Tailors took home ‘cabbages’ – offcuts of cloth rolled up into cabbage shaped parcels, I guess. Actual currency to be used for purchasing other stuff was dispensed in miniscule amounts at the discretion of the employer. Working at this end of the wage economy can be I think pretty similar to that historic situation – internship anyone?

If you are a recent graduate reading this I think you may know what I mean. Do you perhaps get some credit on your Oyster card as a perk for the hours of unpaid work that pass for a job in 2011?  42% of Spain’s recent graduates are unemployed and protesting about it, so what is it looking like here?

Advanced capitalism means more workers than labour available to carry out, and in an economy like this, it is vital to have a number of strings to your bow, and as many eggs in your basket as you can keep track of. Not only does this help to ward off boredom, as you are unlikely to be doing the same thing day in and day out, it certainly broadens your options vis a vis income acquisition. At least, this is how I negotiate the complexities of self employment in the second decade of the new millennium.

Artquest have asked me to write about some of the eggs in my basket accrued over two decades working ‘freelance’. So I can tell you that this year my portfolio of practice includes some hard won hours teaching in art school (why does Sheffield Hallam wait 3 or 4 months to pay Visiting Lecturers?).  Also, a fascinating collaborative project where I am working at the interface between material sculpture and virtual rendering. This project  – commissioned by Site Gallery –  has just run its course, but is so beautiful and elegant that I hope it can tour and that you get to see it.

Another egg is a part curatorial and part participatory group exhibition for Mount Stuart on the magical Isle of Bute to open in summer 2012. And not to forget, a fabulous opportunity to input into the design of a Mayfair redevelopment via my friends Hawkins Brown Architects.

And here’s the thing, most of the people I work with are friends. That is how it goes in the world. I love to work and even more I love to work with great people – making friends and keeping them plus complete passion for the work that you make – these are the keys – the stuff that really keep the world on its axis – L O V E !!! Not money – now can you tell I’m a child of the sixties?

Oh and the last ingredients of that omelette I have got going on, amazing amazing, I sold a piece of work (didn’t get paid yet though) and there’s a few talks, and texts for magazines and of course the Money Talks blog.

© Sarah Staton

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