An assistant is a person (or by extension a device) that helps another person accomplish their goals
This blog is part of a research project and art exhibition at Bearspace entitled the Assistant, it collects together discussion and stories around the idea of artist's assistants and arts internships to build a discourse around the exhibition itself. For more on the exhibition click here. To read the entries collected as part of this project read on or submit your own story here.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

An Assistant's Dream

Update from the previous post...

Funnily enough, after I wrote that text I had a dream that I was back working for her. I dreamed that her studio was in a derelict warehouse and I lived there sharing a dirty old black sheetless mattress with another assistant. The other assistant and I were collecting glasses and doing the washing up from a wild party the night before. The artist was sat at the table drinking tea. The other assistant suggested I clean up the mouse skeleton under the sofa. I was annoyed that I was asked to do this as I would have been happy to do it on my own volition.

Not sure what this means, other than that it brings up phrases like “skeletons in the closet,” and, it’s about vermin. Which reminds me, she used to affectionately call us call us mice…

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Not Spilling the Beans

An Assistant's Story from an anonymous ex-assistant gives a positive reassessment of assistants:

I worked for a famous artists a few years ago for a period of three years. During my employment I often dreamed of the time when I could “spill the beans” on all that went on in the studio, her home, social life, international trips and exhibitions. I looked forward to the day when I could have my say, an exposé and, perhaps, claim something for myself. However, as the years have passed this ambition now feels so cliché and really quite sophomoric. Perhaps, I am getting old and am less of a crackerjack, but, now, all I have is gratitude.

Okay, maybe a bitter taste does still linger, but the bitterness, I find, so embarrassing. To be an artist assistant is quite a normal thing for an artist to do at the beginning stages of a career. Regardless, to be an artist and work as an artist assistant can sometimes be a little painful on the ego.

Today, I looked back at my diary which included some journaling, press clippings, photographs, invites, notes, cards and random bits and bobs. The remnants that I sifted through today I am so fond of and so grateful for. It is so strange to see myself in the pictures – posing in some, working away in others + a few of me dancing on tables with my boss. In some, I see what a hardedge I had during those times. I worried that I had put myself in a vulnerable position - one that I could be taken advantage of or one where I might have my artist self sucked out of me. So, I maintained quite a “nobody is going to mess with me” attitude. I imagine now that this wasn’t very comfortable for my employer. Looking back I wished I’d been a bit more forthcoming. It was a fantastic opportunity and I am ever so grateful to have had it.

To be an artist you have to be so headstrong; you have to believe in yourself and your convictions. It is lonely and often you are working against all odds. Being an artist often feels like the hardest job in the world and, sometimes, we could do with a little help.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Assistants discussed on Radio 4

Grayson Perry is amongst the guests discussing artists that employ assistants to create their work for them (amongst other subjects). Listen to it here until next Wednesday.

We don't expect architects to build their own buildings. On the other hand, how would we feel about a novelist that didn't write their own novel, a poet that did not write their own poems?

Food for thought.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Lunchtime seating arrangements

An assistant's story from RP

i work in an art making studio in london. we don't solely work for artists, there's museums and theatre, but mainly artists.
Every year I have to sign a confidentiality form, so that way I cannot post any photographs of the work I’m doing and most of all, who I am working for.
Some artists are very particular in not wanting people to know they don’t make their own work. Some will actually thank the studio and all the people involved, in the exhibition catalogue.
These are big artists with big projects, I’m talking turbine hall and recent RA retrospective material.
But not all artists are the same.
Some you won’t see until the polishing is finished. We get instructions and plans from one of the studio directors that have previously met with the artist. There was actually one of these artists that would have his personal assistant come down to the studio and photograph everything we were doing because he would have anxiety attacks if he went there himself. Things look pretty rough in the making but come on!
Some other artists are actually interested in the making of their own work. They will go to the studio on a daily basis, talk to you and even work alongside. These are a very rare and appreciated kind.

Personally, I don't think artists should have to make their work, especially if it goes beyond their skills. I am not in any way offended by doing what I do, and I get paid, relatively well and regularly. This allows me to have my own studio and make my own art work, and even use the studio’s equipment to do it.

It is always fun to go and see the exhibition of “your” work and have invigilators saying things like, please don’t stand so close and don’t touch the artwork. Dude, last week I was having lunch sitting on it!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

An Assistant's Story?

Another angle on Assistants submitted by the famed poet Anon...

"A friend of mine has for years worked for the fourteen secret masters of the universe. His name is Monty Cantsin and he does everything in the name of Neoism. He doesn't get paid by the fourteen secret masters of the universe for his labours for neoism and so this would count loosely as him working working as an artists assistant. I am not lieing. Have a google and SEE".

Grin and Bear it - An Assistant's Story

An Assistant's story from Christelle

Ever wondered why since October 2009 I haven’t really been where I wanted to be?
Here I am, sitting by the window of a little flat stuck in Brockley: it’s a sunny day, yet the thoughts in my head cloud my soul.

I have a Ba/Hons in my right pocket, and dreams in my left pocket, but then again I wonder: why have I not found a bloody really good job or PAID internship?
Oh, well I AM doing an internship actually, but it’s not paid, oh no never; it’s what’s en vogue, UNPAID LABOUR…It’s as if employers are taking the piss with this recession time and all, there is a masquerade in place I tell you ( but never mind, not now).

So I do a little bit of this, a little bit of that, a little bit of everything, and because I am a perfectionist I do it the best I can , saying to myself: “ Go on Christelle, you know it’s for a brighter future. Get the experience you need, and move on. It doesn’t matter if you get paid or not, your dream is to have your own art gallery, so do your best”; that’s what keeps me going.

The internship is part-time, and I also volunteer on an ad-hoc basis for another organisation; I am investing my time and moral health into two art galleries at the moment. Six odd months ago, I graduated…Six odd months down the line, I see the work I do going into the hands of someone who doesn’t even participate in “travel expenses”; it’s not very fair, is it? Six odd months down the line, I feel the urge to roar and to grunt like a bear. Sitting by the window, is a brown-eyed bear wondering when the salmon will come her way.

I am a writer, amateur photograph, project assistant, events assistant, marketing assistant, gallery assistant and a bear: I am an intern.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

An Assistant's Admission

An assistant's admission, submitted by R.

"When the artist I work for walks into the studio my knees actually shake with nerves".

thanks for that R!