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terms & conditions: with Margareta Kern and contributors

14 Sep-30 Sep 2011

Contemporary politics and the effects of neoliberal capitalism are on the agenda in artist Margareta Kern’s workshops and discussions.

terms & conditions is a project comprising of a series of events devised by curator Teresa Cisneros in collaboration with artist Margareta Kern, at Rivington Place. The events, ranging from talks and discussions to workshops and walking tours, explore the impact of neoliberal capitalism on migration and labour with a focus on the social and economic injustices.

Kern is joined by contributors from diverse fields including artists, academics and activists in an open forum for debate and learning. Themes include: who are migrant workers today?; current crises and the rise of xenophobia; a history of anti-fascism in Britain; immigration and protest, and the displacement of women and work. This series continues and develops Kern’s interest in the relationship of economy and migration, knowledge and action, art and activism.

Kern says, ‘I was moved by Etienne Balibar’s recent text on the growing rise of xenophobic ideas and policies across Europe, published on opendemocracy.net titled ‘Our European incapacity’. His text felt like an urgent call to start a process of mapping and understanding terms and conditions in which we live, and which are increasingly deteriorating, particularly for those with precarious immigration and work status.’


terms & conditions – background by Margareta Kern

When I was approached by curator Teresa Cisneros to respond to Art & Economies series, I felt this was a great opportunity to engage and test out the public space of participation and learning, through a series of discussions and workshops, that would include artists, academics and activists, who are dealing with issues of migration, labour, visibility, power and representation. I was particularly keen for this to be a cross- disciplinary conversation, as I work very much in that way, drawing on a mix of resources from sociology, anthropology and geography to political and cultural theory, to inform my artistic practice. The recent anti-cuts campaigns and protests that I have been involved in, have done much to strengthen my interest and a sense of urgency in interrogating the relationship of art and activism and the place of artistic production in the current neoliberalisation of cultural spaces and art education.

Creating terms & conditions therefore, is a way for me to respond to a growing economic ‘crises’ and deepening of social injustices, by taking the process of research and thinking out of the solitary confinement of my studio, into the space of collective thinking and debating, in order to interrogate these pertinent and urgent issues and build new alliances and solidarities.

The title terms & conditions refers to the text that is at the end of legally binding agreements, usually written in small letters, using either incomprehensible language or lengthy text to conceal the terms and conditions it is supposed to reveal. In opposition to that, I wanted to use the same title, albeit in small letters, to mark the project out as a space in which to reveal, debate and understand more about the terms and conditions in which we live and work.

Much of the inspiration for terms & conditions came from researching and developing my work GUESTS, that focuses on the women from the socialist Yugoslavia, who migrated as ‘guest workers’ to West Berlin in the late 1960’s, and whom I interviewed in the period from 2009 to 2011. They were part of the large mass labour migration move, orchestrated by both countries, to supply mostly unskilled, low-wage labour to the booming West German economy. Based on the historical, archival and ethnographic research I have conducted to date, I have developed a series of related works, the central of which is a video-installation titled GUESTure, an experimental re-enactment of interviews with the migrant workers, inspired by political verbatim theatre, re-staged in my studio in London. The project GUESTS works with marginalised histories of women migrant workers, reflecting the fragmented nature of memory and narrative, and thinking through the radical potential of an art-work as an archive and a memorial to the unsaid and the unheard.

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