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This movement was born out of direct action. It was built by you. It was built out of necessity and desperation. It was built out of solidarity and compassion. Millions of people joined the last strike, and we expect millions more to join the next one. Together we have shaken the tech and media corporations that profit from our content and unpaid labour to their cores. They proved that with their attempts to silence us. But we - you - us - have built something else in the process. A community and a movement. A gathering of like minded people with shared aspirations, concerns, dreams, and struggles. We want this place to become a space for that community and movement. A space for you. We’ve started to call it a union, partly because it's a term we hope many people will instantly understand, and partly because the long history of unions and labour organising was an important inspiration for making this happen. But unions are made from people as much as ideas, and this union is made up of you. Which is why we’re turning this page over to you. Instead of a manifesto here you’ll find a series of questions and prompts about what you think a union can be, what it can do, what it means. This movement was built by you. The union will be too. Tell us what you think it should be. Eventually we’ll have space - secure and safe, unmonitored by the corporate networks - here for us to discuss all this, and much more. But we want to hear from you now, so we’ve had to resort to more basic methods.
What could a union do for you?
Call our secure,anonymous hotline and leave your thoughts with us now: 1 (647) 699-6404
A union as a set of values?
What if that’s all the union is at its core – a set of values? An agreed platform? A manifesto? A shared vision of what the future could be for artists? Or a shared vision of a dystopia that must be avoided? What if that’s its real strength – providing a set of values and demands that anyone – anybody that calls themselves an artist, in any form – can sign up to? That gives them both solidarity/has their back, and allows their name to be counted?
A union as transparency?
So many of the problems that artists face are related to power, to who can make decisions, or holds the purse strings. And so much of that power lies in decisions made behind closed doors, and only allowing artists glimpses of what happens, what affects them directly. What if a union could blow all that open? What if it could use our solidarity and sharing to fight back against divide and conquer tactics? What if it named and shamed? What if it was less glassdoor and more wikileaks? What if it published emails and recorded phone conversations? What if produced reports on the ethics and pay of clients and companies in the way Amnesty or Greenpeace produced reports on rights and the environment? What if it said fuck you and just called out all the bullshit?
A union as automated entity?
Everybody wants to be in a union, but nobody wants to work on it. Of course. It’s just yet another thing to do that isn’t working on art. So what if you didn’t have to work on it? What if it ran itself? What if it was a swarm of artificial intelligences and automated services that largely looked after itself? What if it tracked trends and reported back? What if it automatically connected you to relevant clients or collaborators? What if it alerted you if we were getting paid unfairly, or your work exploited? What if it searched the web and found when your work had been stolen, or your IP infringed, without you having to lift a finger?
A union as dataset?
“Data is the new oil,” apparently. Or maybe more accurately “data is like soylent green – it’s made of people.” What if a union allowed us to take our combined data, and instead of having it mined and exploited by others, let us put it to use to help ourselves? What could we do with this data, under an ethical, shared set of values? How can we leverage that power? How could we use it to influence policy or corporate decision making? What can it tell us about the industry and ourselves? What could it tell AIs if we fed it to them? What decisions or answers might they come up with? What if we could sell or lease the dataset, but under our own terms?
A union as an artists’ statement?
What does an artist’s union even look like? What do the membership cards look like? Logos? What does its annual general meeting look like? An exhibition? A festival? A biennale? The world’s largest group show? Where does it happen? In 25 places around the globe at once? In VR? What does a strike look like? A protest? What could be the impact of just taking the time to imagine this?
A union as politics?
We’ve used the term union here - instead of guild or community or similar – mainly out of ease. But also because we think it has a political weight that other terms lack. It’s provocative, it represents something – solidarity and an acceptance of the political. Shouldn’t we be accepting the political in everything – us, our work, the problems we face, this project, the ‘art world’, everything – and embracing that, rather than pretending it isn’t there? Shouldn’t we be enthusiastically confronting the politics of our situation rather than trying to somehow rise above it, or stay aloof? Shouldn’t we let the politics contaminate and dirty us – because they already have? When someone accuses of being too political or having an agenda, shouldn’t we say ‘too damn right’ back to them and be proud of our politics, and what we fight for?
Eventually we’ll have space - secure and safe, unmonitored by the corporate networks - here for us to discuss all this, and much more. But we want to hear from you now, so we’ve had to resort to more basic methods. Call our secure, anonymous hotline and leave your thoughts with us now: 1 (647) 699-6404