Art and affective labor

Workshop dates: November 2nd – 6th 2015,

Place: 13:00-17:00: Mindpartementet, 10 min walk from KKH.


This workshop will focus on "affective labor," or work performed that produces affects. While affects are related to emotions and feelings, such as joy or distress, they are not exactly the same. Affects are difficult to describe, but they are related to, or expressed in, bodily experience. An affect becomes such, to us, or to a thing, when it either increases or decreases the life force of the thing being affected.


We'll look at and discuss art and other things in the world that might make tangible different notions related to affect and affective labor. We'll view video works by Frances Stark, Moyra Davey, and Petra Bauer, and have discussions after each screening.


We'll do a close readings of a few texts, including Michael Hardt's essay "Affective Labor" (1999), and apply it to the realm of art practice, in order to critically examine our role as artists in the production of affects.


Hardt defines and contextualizes affective labor through a brief history of economic paradigms, leading to his interpretation of it as a potential "biopower"—or something that generates life, sociality, and subjectivities. But Hardt also critically analyzes how this type of work can fall into the service of a persistent patriarchal order.


We'll also think through Jan Verwoert's take on the matter through his essay "You Make Me Feel Mighty Real." Here, Verwoert identifies a "zone of sentience" that—as artists—we must negotiate in communicating with others, engendering a type of mutual witnessing of any given event or thing.


Such encounters can be eschewed, or they can be activated—but coming to terms with a chosen position's potential outcome, or indeed its affects, is to begin to understand why we engage with others in the first place. So this workshop will try to bring to the surface why and how we choose to communicate with others through our art, including unpacking what it might mean when we make art with the intention of producing sociality or political change for, or on behalf of others.


The workshop will include individual studio talks with each of the participating students, with the aim of integrating their own work into the dialogue on affect. Before the start of the course, students will sign up for studio visit times and all texts will be made available.


About the instructor

Lisa Tan (born 1973, New York, USA) is an artist living in Stockholm. She received her MFA from USC in Los Angeles; she is currently completing a practice-based PhD at the University of Gothenburg, Valand Academy.


Tan works in mostly video, photography and installations to explore the intricate relationship between language and experience. Recent exhibitions include The New Museum Triennial "Surround Audience", New York; "For every word has its own shadow" Galleri Riis, Stockholm, "Sunsets" Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara; "The Mind Was Dreaming", Temple Bar Gallery + Studios, Dublin; "Just what is it that makes today so familiar, so uneasy?" LIAF Lofoten International Art Festival, Norway; "Duets" at Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art, Lisbon; "Speaking and Thinking", Galerie Nordenhake, Stockholm; she co-curated "Cimetière d'Ixelles" with Lisa Oppenheim at Art in General, New York.


Photo: Jean-Baptiste Beranger

Lisa Tan, Waves (2014-2015), installation view, Galleri Riis Stockholm