4/25: Just back from the Bay Area, where I was honored to be a part of Valuing Labor in the Arts, a practicum organized by the Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley together with the brilliant Helena Keeffe. I’ll be writing about the event for an upcoming issue of Art Practical, and there will probably be video of my talk at some point, but until then you can read a few essays and workshop prompts in an earlier issue, and I’ll leave you with a little moment that was one of my favorites: Living genius Yasmin and Calicopie provided lunch and hors d’oeuvres. In the evening, little signs marked each of the small bites; one read, “EMPLOYMENT: Union-picked organic strawberries / Walmart banana cream”. Another, “EXPLOITATION: spicy corporate slaughterhouse chicken processed with minimum wage labor”. We stood around, drank from disposable glasses of wine, chatted, agreed that the food was amazing. Later, we all sat ourselves around banquet tables for an evening of talks, and Yasmin spoke very shortly about the night’s catering. She talked about parallels between the invisibility of labor in art and in food production, about the ways that aesthetics can disguise the conditions of production. She talked about the berries, and then about the chicken: “The chicken tonight is actually from Kentucky Fried Chicken, which pays its workers $7.63 an hour on average. Even managers only make $10.89, but they gross 4.22 billion dollars a year.” In a video from the event, she needs to pause after she says “Kentucky Fried Chicken”; there are audible gasps from the audience, muttering. Yasmin closed with a smile, saying, “it’s just an opportunity for you to.. kind of.. explore and enjoy these things.” The audience laughed, and later I overheard one woman reassure another: “Oh, she couldn’t possibly have gotten KFC in here. They’re very strict about outside catering.” It seemed to make both of them feel better.

4/23: Coming up later this summer. Mark yr calendars.

Please join us for the 2014 Junior Theorists Symposium on August 15, 2014, at the University of California (Berkeley). Details about the program follow. Questions? Contact Jordanna Matlon and Dan Hirschman at juniortheorists@gmail.com.

Junior Theorists Symposium
University of California (Berkeley)
August 15, 2014

8:30 – 9:00 | Coffee and Bagels

9:00 – 10:50 | Culture, Action, and Difference
* Ellis Monk (University of Chicago) – “Bodily Capital: Capturing the Role of the Body in Social Inequality”
* Daniel Sherwood (The New School) – “Acting Through the Margin of Freedom: Bourdieu as a Social Movement Theorist”
* Brandon Vaidyanathan (Rice University) – “A Cultural Theory of Differentiation”
Discussant: George Steinmetz (University of Michigan – Ann Arbor)

10:50 – 11:00 | Coffee

11:00 – 12:50 | Measures of Worth
* Alison Gerber (Yale University) – “Tradition, Rationalization and Worth: A Theory of Decommensuration”
* Michael Halpin (University of Wisconsin – Madison) – “Science and Sociodicy: Neuroscientific Explanations of Social Suffering”
* Katherine Kenny (University of California – San Diego) – “The Biopolitics of Global Health: Life and Death and Neoliberal Time”
Discussant: Marion Fourcade (University of California – Berkeley)

12:50 – 2:00 | Lunch

2:00 – 3:50 | Place and Perspective
* Hillary Angelo (New York University) – “From the City as a Lens to Urbanization as a Way of Seeing: Refocusing Social Categories for an Urban Planet”
* Jennifer Carlson (University of Toronto) – “Citizen-Protectors: Guns, Masculinity and Citizenship in an Age of Decline”
* Victoria Reyes (Princeton University) – “Global Borderlands: A Case Study of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Philippines”
Discussant: Saskia Sassen (Columbia University)

4:00 – 5:30 | After-panel: The Boundaries of Theory
* Stefan Bargheer (University of California – Los Angeles)
* Claudio Benzecry (University of Connecticut)
* Margaret Frye (Harvard University)
* Julian Go (Boston University)
* Rhacel Parreñas (University of Southern California)

5:30 – ? | Theory in the Wild: Beer, wine, and good conversation (off-site)

The Junior Theorists Symposium is an open event. In order to facilitate planning, please RSVP by sending an email to juniortheorists@gmail.com with the subject line “JTS RSVP.” To help cover event costs, we suggest an on-site donation of $20 per faculty member and $10 per graduate student. The exact locations will be announced later this summer.

4/14: A paper by Joseph Klett and myself is out now online ahead of print publication. It’s about noise music and why we should take interaction and performance seriously. You can find it here or, if it’s paywalled for you, here. Happy Monday!


4/3: An op-ed I wrote just came out in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. It’s based in part on the work I did for this essay and another that will come out over at Narrative.ly this summer. Thanks again most especially to Venus for letting me share her story. She is still in the midst of the appeals process; if you feel so moved, you can contribute to her legal fees here.


2/20: In Baltimore at Easterns. Work.culture 2.1. This time, with badges.

Who’s a real artist? In America, the critic and the curator, the gallerist and the buyer all drop hints. But the final judge – the one that can finally make or break you – is the tax man.

2/15: The Audit of Venus.

I wanted to find out more about the State of Minnesota’s audit of Venus DeMars the moment I heard about it. Last fall, I went to meet Venus right before she and her lawyer sent their final appeal to the Department of Revenue. I wrote about it, and here it is, for you.

The load got a lot lighter when the appeal paperwork went in. Venus has been working hard, and has done some amazing things: she’s been playing solo and full band concerts, just premiered a new performance work with support from a State Arts Board grant at the Soap Factory, and tonight (!) a new solo show of her drawings opens at Rogue Buddha in Minneapolis. She expects to receive the ruling on her appeal this spring.

It’s been a real privilege to hear Venus and Lynette’s story, and I hope I tell it well. Thanks also to John, Beth, Emily, and Marianne, all of whom took time to speak with me about the case, taxes, and art as a business during my visit.

Read the story.


Launching now: Open Book, a series of pamphlets for print and screen. Old writing, new writing, paywalled writing, other people’s writing. Sounds and images. We’ll see.

Other people have spoken more eloquently about academic writing, its problems, and its relationships to issues of power, inequality, and access than I will. For the moment, with records pressed on our own and public projects carried out by force of will and sites like aaa…rg.org on our team, let’s give it a shot.

New and old writing, updated periodically. Rolling out slowly this month with more to come soon.


1/16: Just back from the W.A.G.E. Summit in New York, where an amazing team of board members and supporters (among which group I enthusiastically claim membership) hashed out the details of W.A.G.E. Certification. Expect to see a fee schedule and certification process rolled out this year, beginning in New York City. Sign up for updates here and join the coalition here. W.A.G.E. (Working Artists and the Greater Economy) demands payment for making the world more interesting.


12/6: In Växjö, happily waiting out the storm at the CCS at Linnéuniversitetet. Heading next to Stockholm to talk on Monday, then points south. See you soon?


Hey Chicago: I’m leaving. Thanks so much to Johannes, Terence, and Fiona; Jennifer, Will, and Betty; Kellie and Hannah; and David and Margarita. Hope to see you all again soon!

That’s what you get for stealing.