June 5, 2008

Group Work by Temporary Services

Co-written and edited by the three current members of the art group Temporary Services, Group Work is a thorough investigation of groups of artists, activists and musicians in the form of interviews and short profiles. Temporary Services interviews the band The Ex, Pedro Bell from the band Funkadelic, AA Bronson from General Idea, ex-members of Political Art Documentation/Distribution, and current members of the groups Haha, Wochenklausur, and What, How and For Whom, asking questions specific to artists who work in groups. Each interview is prefaced by a brief introduction to the group’s history, major events and shows, and current status, and gives context on who is being interviewed and why.

This book provides unique insights into the workings of groups as it is conceived, planned, and orchestrated by a several people who have first-hand experience with the various misconceptions that the individual-centric art world holds towards groups and their practices. In addition to talking about past projects with the artists interviewed, Temporary Services' questions center around: group formation, member roles, communication techniques, common misconceptions by art administrators in terms of compensation, recognition and travel, navigating conflict and negotiation, managing individual art practices in light of group membership, and membership changes, including how groups deal with the death of members.

As someone whose longest collaboration has spanned a mere four years, I found reading about several groups with more than a decade of work together deeply inspiring and encouraging. Many of the questions raised by Temporary Services evoked stories from groups similar to experiences I've had as a member of a group, such as having to explain and re-explain to arts administrators that the more outspoken member of the group isn't the 'leader,' or that all of the members of our group are needed to perform a show and that we can't just send one or two people. I also did a bit of thinking about ways that The MOST could possibly re-structure to give ourselves more flexibility by figuring out a way to open up to new members. Because we've taken on the letters of the word "MOST," we've sort of limited ourselves to adding new people. It seems like a lot of the long-standing groups have found ways to add new people and allow other members to leave if they need to, or if they aren't interested in a current project. I've always imagined my work with The MOST or Mostlandia as something that could last a lifetime, but it doesn't seem like that should mean we have to all work on everything forever.

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