WAGE: Job Performance
In WAGE – an acronym for “Working Artist Grants Espresso” – I address art and its correlation with labour, while asserting that artistic practice is standard labour, by re-performing and exhibiting my job as a barista.
The installation configures a gallery or alternative venue into a café setting furnished with a countertop, small espresso machine, tip jar, menu chalkboard, tables and stools, a neon WAGE café sign, and other café items. The performance entails a transactional exchange between the gallery visitors and myself where I take and fill espresso based drink orders. Making the drinks, serving, and interacting with patrons will be considered the artistic performance. It references my ‘day job’ but also highlights that the majority of emerging artists are required to support themselves and their artwork by working low-skilled, low-wage jobs.
Each drink is served in a takeout cup branded with a ‘WAGE’ logo, signed with a stamp of my signature and numbered to be part of an edition. Such editioning alludes to mainstream cafés’ practice of labeling coffee cups with their contents or names of patrons. It also questions the idea of authorship within artistic practice while poking fun at the history of artist multiples, authenticity of the art object, and valuation of artistic production/labour. WAGE: Job Performance conflates my day job and my artistic practice and considers the value attributed to each.
The artist gratefully acknowledges funding support from the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.