In 2008, Bridget Elmer and I decided to create a generative framework for addressing issues related to art, craft, time, labor, and economics. We wanted to build community with other artists, while creating a platform for independent publishing and social practice. We established Impractical Labor in Service of the Speculative Arts (ILSSA), a membership organization for makers who use obsolete technology in conceptual or experimental ways. ILSSA is structured as a Union that fosters solidarity and creates opportunities for members, and as a Research Institute that publishes new ideas, communications, and resources.
Below are details of select ILSSA projects: publications I've produced for ILSSA as Local 917 Shop RC, and an overview of some of our actions and exhibitions. Please visit impractical-labor.org for more information.2008 -- present
In early 2012, as part of the ILSSA Quarterly, we mailed a 8.5x22" letterpress survey to all ILSSA members, asking each to assess her labor conditionsas an art worker. 42 members responded with great insight, clarity, and thought.
The resulting report is an edited compilation of the returned surveys: a collective and contradictory voice recounting the State of the ILSSA Union. Issues raised by the Survey will be investigated at the first ever ILSSA Convergence in Asheville, NC, July 5-7 2013, where the surveys themselveswill also be on display at an exhibition at Asheville BookWorks from July - August 2013.
The Asheville show was the second public exhibition of the surveys, which were first exhibited at the A+D Gallery, Columbia College Chicago in early 2013 (installation shot above).
An essay on the primordial origins of modern work, as suggested by contemporary interpretations of the 39 Melachot. The essay suggests that perhaps all activities we engage in today, no matter how irrelevant to survival they may seem, may be traced back to a subsistence-based activity. Even filing. And meetings.handset from lead & wood types and printed letterpress
A short essay positing that craft is simply doing things as well as one can. The text-of-many-typefaces running vertically consists of titles from the New York Public Library'sreference collection, all of which contain the word craft in their title; the essay's analysis follows from this really interesting (and often amusing) index.handset from lead & wood types and printed letterpress
Produced as an informal keepsake for the Brooklyn panel at the 2008 ARLIS Artist Book Conference at MoMA, and included in ILSSA's Inaugural Quarterly, January 2009. It is, btw, a reversible-by-rotation poster. Is it The only freedom is freedom from want or Is freedom from want the only freedom?handset from lead & wood types and printed letterpress
Each year on the 7th day of the 7th month, ILSSA celebrates its own version of the Festival to Plead for Skills. All members are invited to practice a skill of their own choosing, and to document the results of such practiceto share with all ILSSA members.
Shown here are various festival activities through the years.2009 - presentfestival publication | 2012 | 11 x 4.25 inches | 150 copies
Significant literary work can only come into being in a strict alternation between action and writing:it must nurture the inconspicuous forms that better fit its influence in active communities... leaflets, brochures,articles, and posters. Only this prompt language shows itself actively equal to the moment.
Methinks he would have included zines in that list as well! Produced for the spring 2011 ILSSA Quarterly.letterpress & rubber stamp on deadstock stationery
For Impractical Labor's Research Quarterly, April 2010: an analogue internet. Reference report forms (left) are issued to all ILSSA members, along with an invitation to submit handwritten reports to an ever-growing, collaboratively generated annotated bibliography of ILSSA-relevant reference materials. All submitted reports are color-coded, photocopied (right) and distributed to all members with each subsequent Quarterly.This project is now retired.handset from lead & wood types and printed letterpress
The installation Every Day Work chronicles one full year (January 1 - December 31, 2011) of Impractical Labor as practiced by a dedicated group of ILSSA members. On every day worked in 2012, members saved remnants of their process in a dated envelope. In early January 2012, members sent their envelopes and/or a representative tool to the Hammes Gallery at Saint Mary's College. One envelope is posted on the gallery wall for each worked day. On the gallery floor, the saved remnants are grouped by month, with remnants from each day organized in rows. The exhibition is a visual chronology of every day worked by union members, wherever they may have been. Together with the tools, the show provides a glimpse into the nature of such work.
Upon the show's closing, Saint Mary's College students were offered the remnants for their own creative reuse, and the envelopes were saved to be bound into books.
On July 7, 2012, ILSSA's 4th Annual Festival to Plead for Skills, Bridget and I sewed the chronologically organized envelopes into books of two-week increments as a public demonstrationat the Bridgeport Arts Festival. We taught impromptu bookbinding workshops to passersby. Once bound, the envelope books were sent to all ILSSA members who participated in the show.
Many thanks to Krista Hoefle for the opportunity to install the show, to Saint Mary's College for their support, and most especially to all participating ILSSA members, without whom this exhibition would not have been possible!2012 | mixed media installation | download the exhibition guide
Naturally, the ILSSA website had to be handmade entirely in html, no CSS or programming languages, but with, I'm afraid, copious and naughty amounts of br/s, just like this site. Have a look for yourself at impractical-labor.org.2009 | hand-coded html