How can the artwork be considered a form of anti-work? Responding to the IFK’s current research topic »Different Work,« Abigail Susik’s lecture explores the surrealist sabotage of the work ethic over the course of the 20th century and work-resistance efforts in radical aesthetics after World War II.
Starting in the 1920s, the Parisian surrealists waged what they called a »war on work.« For some surrealists, this eventually amounted to a position of wage labor abolitionism and a collective call for the end of the system of waged work. Proponents of this view argued that a lifetime of working for the boss was a form of amoral exploitation. To resist the pressure of working-to-live, they advocated for the radical sabotage tactics of voluntary unemployment and permanent strike. The surrealists also showed how »artwork« could avoid being just another type of exploited »paid work« via artistic and symbolic sabotage. As explored in Abigail Susik’s recent book, Surrealist Sabotage and the War on Work (Manchester University Press, 2021), this lecture reviews the rise of anarchist sabotage tactics in the 1890s and surveys the transformation of anti-work ideas up to the counterculture era, concluding with remarks on the Chicago surrealists and Belgian Situationists during the 1960s and 70s.
Abigail Susik is associate professor of art history at Willamette University and the author of Surrealist Sabotage and the War on Work. She is coeditor of the volumes Surrealism and Film After 1945: Absolutely Modern Mysteries and Radical Dreams: Surrealism, Counterculture, Resistance. Her work has recently appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Los Angeles Review of Books. Currently she is City of Vienna/IFK_Fellow.
THE LECTURE WILL BE HYBRID.
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