Why Do Artists Form a Union? Precarization and Initiatives That Strive to Address Operating Issues in the World of Art

lecture of Eliška Mazalanová

March 30, 2023, 6:00 p.m.

Event will be held in Slovak.

Why Don´t Artists Form a Union? is the title of the work created by New York artist Wiliam Powhida. He uses a chart to present his slightly sarcastic analysis of the reasons for which artists are reluctant to organize themselves and strive for change in their working conditions, starting with egocentrically set, individualistically and competitively based standpoints reflecting the character of the art economy in which the winner takes all, up to skeptical, frustrated and apologetic statements justified by busyness and burnout. Although this work specifically reflects the situation in the U.S., it offers a picture of the generally valid principles that guide the world of art and support various forms of inequality and conditions leading to the precarization and exploitation of the majority of its participants.

Despite this fact, in the last decade, a huge number of artists and other cultural workers have been actively organized, and have established formal and informal unions, cooperatives and other initiatives. They strive for changes in working and social conditions and mutual support, not only of themselves and their colleagues, but other precarized workers. However, others have chosen the path of withdrawal; this does not mean resignation as such, but the conviction that it is possible to create and share art within fairer and more sustainable structures.
Could we take some inspiration from those?

Eliška Mazalanová is an art critic and curator. She received her doctorate from the Faculty of Arts of Charles University in Prague, and her master’s degree from the Faculty of Arts of Comenius University in Bratislava. She has worked as a program coordinator at, and as a curator at the Považie Regional Art Gallery in Žilina, the Slovak Design Museum and several independent galleries and projects. She is interested in social and environmentally engaged art, the theme of work, collaborative practice, cooperation with the audience and the social and political potential of art.

This lecture is based on research supported using public funds by the Slovak Arts Council.

ERSTE Foundation is main partner of tranzit.

Media partners:, Flash Art CZ & SK,

Illustrative collage by Eliška Mazalanová