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Dying of Exposure

From our partners at Art Practical, today we bring you an essay from their new issue, “Free Speech in the Art World.” Author Aruna D’Souza discusses “the challenge of being a writer in an age when we are all content providers, the difficulty of separating one kind of free labor from another kind, of weighing one type of exposure against another, of what we are willing to offer as a gift and what we insist should be paid for.” This essay was originally published on May 27, 2015.

Dawn Kasper. THIS COULD BE SOMETHING IF I LET IT, 2012; installation view Whitney Biennial, 2012. Courtesy of the artist and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Dawn Kasper. THIS COULD BE SOMETHING IF I LET IT, 2012; installation view, Whitney Biennial, 2012. Courtesy of the Artist and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

At some point, two years ago, maybe, I stopped doing things for free: no free writing, no free talks, no free critiques with artists or art students, nothing. I didn’t make the decision out of avarice; I made it as a matter of survival.

I used to accept all kinds of invitations to do such things, paid or not, when I was a tenured professor. I used to feel that it was sort of crass to think about my economic needs when there were important intellectual ideas to discuss. But, of course, the privilege of not having to think about my intellectual labor in those terms was predicated on the very fact that I was being paid, by my university, if not by the publishers, colleges, students, or artists who hosted the events to which I was invited.

When I decided to leave academia, things changed for me. It wasn’t just going from having my salary deposited in my bank account every two weeks to the feast-or-famine-but-mostly-famine pay schedule of a freelance writer. It was rather that, for the first time since I was a college student filling out a time card for a menial job, I was intensely aware of what my time was worth. And even more aware of what my time should be worth. Those two numbers were suddenly almost never the same.

Read the full article here.

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