Stop! Why, when and how to no longer be an artist

Lili Reynaud-Dewar

Recently, a number of engineers, industrial farmers, financial analysts, people from various professional areas and generations have made public their departure from their field of expertise and their education, for political and ecological reasons. Resignation has become a powerful gesture, and something close to a trend. But what about art? Is it a profession that you can leave? Can you resign from it? And is it a profession at all, to start with? Yet, artists have stopped being artists and making art, more or less since art exists as an organized professional field, and for a vast number of reasons: economical, political, ideological, for a lack of recognition, or personal or systemic issues.

So, who are those ones who decide not to be artists anymore, for what reasons do they take a different direction, and what do they do after art? What are their histories after art? And also: what is it that we base our research on, if our subject has decided to disappear from the public realm of art?

Methodologically speaking, this Lab.Zone will be a continuation of the Lab.Zone initiated in 2022-2023, Bzzz Bzzz Bzzz, which was an investigation, on the form of conversations and interviews, on the history of the Work.Master and its students. Following the disappearance of a good portion of the Work.Master archive, the idea was to write an oral history of the Work.Master through encounters, conversations, anecdotes and gossip.

This time we will meet and discuss with former students who took a completely different direction than the one they were trained for at HEAD and decided to leave art. We will also constantly navigate between our local history (that of HEAD and of Geneva) and a larger art history, through readings and conversations led with researchers, art historians, theoreticians and artists or ex-artists to discuss this topic of the voluntarily, or involuntary disappearance.

We will work resolutely, non-exhaustively, from case studies, art histories and encounters:

  • Lee Lozano and her piece « Drop Out piece » through the eponymous book Sarah Lehrer Graiwer wrote about it.

  • Jack Goldstein, through the oral archive book « Jack Goldstein and the CalArts Mafia », with guest art historian Catherine Chevalier (who taught in the Work.Master some years ago) and author of the book Richard Hertz.

  • Nye Farrabas, Charlotte Posenenske and other women artists, through “Les déserteuses” the auto-fiction book Johana Banc (former work.master student) dedicated to this “disappeared” figure of the Fluxus movement.

  • Chris Korda, trans musician and techno movement icon who disappeared of the musical scene for nearly 15 years will discuss her motivations behind this.

  • Aleksandra Mir, who recently decided to leave London and artistic activities to join a community in the Canary Islands will also be in conversation with us.

  • And many others to be defined together, organically, with the group.

Our favorite method will predominantly remain orality: interviews, conversations and exchanges, all things very precarious and volatile, also subject to disappearing and being forgotten quickly. We will investigate in depth this particular method of oral history through books and films. We will meet twice a month with guests, books, and exchange inside and outside the school.

Part of Decolonising Identities
This Lab.Zone is held in French and in English. Course credit is given based on attendance and participation.