The title and the exhibition Work of Art emerge from the artists’ engagement with the precarious labor situation of the creative class. Auerbakh’s work for this exhibition marks a continuation of her exploration of the “9.5 Theses on Art and Class” by the American Marxist and art critic Ben Davis. The artists’ formalistic approach examines perspectives on labor and its relationship to contemporary art, addressing questions about the impact of restriction and production. Engaging in the debate of how artistic work is valued, Auerbakh investigates forms of creation and fathoms a terminology to grasp the theoretical conditions concerning political and economic factors that provoke the power of the working class. This is based on Davis’ notion of “both ruling- and middle-class worldviews precluding the idea of “art” as general human expression: the ruling-class because it defines the value of art according to the interests of a narrow minority; and the middle-class because its interest is in defining creativity as professional self-expression, which therefore restricts it to creative experts.” (Davis 2013, p.31)
The Man Who Built Everything (2016) is a video installation recalling the work of museum staff as they execute art pieces. ‘The Worker’ articulates a narrative through the building-process of different exhibitions, sharing a personal perspective on creation and occupation. The film displays how -in the neoliberal regime- the distinction between fixed roles is blurred, labor and leisure time coincide, authorship fades and identity capital circulates, as the artworks are designed by artists and built by middle-class creative industry employees. Creativity is more constructed than ever; what we imagine as our own desire and pure imagination becomes a guided thought, nurtured by our highly advertised society. Capitalism manipulates desires and therefore the lives we live, the identities we create and the futures we build. In conjunction with this, Sasha Auerbakh explores the participation of different roles in the professionalized workforce in a broad array.
In the film The Appearance (2016), ‘The Self’ questions categorizations and roles by hallucinatory interrogation of the notion that as artists are striving for the market’s desires the potential of art is weakened. This is also discernible in The Formalist (2015); a magazine compiling the same, different, but same art pieces continuously being produced; exemplifying the collective driving force, pressured by the industry.
Addressing creation without the ulterior motive to monetize, Auerbakh performs the role of a worker by examining her daughter’s flower drawings in a series of sculptures (all Untitled 2016). Their abstraction is deceiving as they simultaneously function as placeholders for innocent (and in Davis’ eyes - true) creativity in the professionalized art field.
Summarizing the artists’ involvement with both institutionalized work and art school education, the exhibition also features This is the bar by the art collective "A collective with the bar".
As only few artists can make a living off their artwork alone, they, next to identifying professionally as artists, tend to maintain a working-class relationship to the visual arts sphere. Even in art schools there is a tendency for such a dry practice. Therefore, this art student bar lays out the problematic artistic labor situation and the neoliberal logic of one’s own internal creation of the future; striving to become an entrepreneur while simultaneously being a working subject that executes art as hobby.