Rant 56: How Cameron Put My Potential To Work

Rant 56: How Cameron Put My Potential To Work Stuart Robinson, Torrential Potential, 2010-2011. Wood. 20cm x 8cm x 8cm. Credit: Stuart Robinson

Is there a seething mass of unrealised creative potential in the UK that has already formed the bedrock for the Big Society? Helen Kaplinsky has a moment of self-reflection whilst she juggles her work as both a curator and cloak-room attendant, and wonders, who is gaining from her potential?

Recently I’ve been considering my potential. Of course, this is the constant state of the cultural producer, perpetual anxiety and potential.

I’m a freelancer; self reliant and self defined. I’m a freelancer, not only as a curator but also as cloak room attendant and gallery assistant at museums across London (for an agency).

With what I term my ‘own work’, which is the curation, if I’m not busy I’m panicked. I create my own opportunities and rely on the whims of others to reciprocate my ideas.

I’m in a constant state of work; the lines between work and leisure are entirely erased, not only because I create my own deadlines but also because my work is not really work - and it’s a privilege.

'Potential' came to my attention one day when I was sick of not fulfilling it, sat working in the cloakroom of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

I sat there pondering my embodiment of excess of skill, thoughts and creativity. Who can I blame for this? Is it the former government's policy of pushing as many school leavers into higher education as possible, which has resulted not only in the burden of financial debt, which is most highly publicised, but also a parallel manifestation of knowledge excess?

My work is ad infinitum, it never stops, consistent in its 'soft pressure' [1]. So what happens to the excess of potential? Nothing goes to waste and capitalism has been quick to put these skills to work.

The deformalisation of the workplace was just the first step in what amounts to this soft capital (that has for decades been the artist’s model, built on free creative labour and flexibility).

Today this free creative labour is being asked to stretch and stretch some more to replace state provisions. Did we, the creative class, invent the Big Society?


[1] 'Maybe it would be better if we worked in groups of three? Part 2 of 2: The Experimental Factory', Liam Gillick, e-flux journal #3 February 2009, www.e-flux.com/journal/view/41

Contributed by Helen Kaplinsky

Helen is a curator and writer based in London.

The views expressed in The Rant are those of Helen Kaplinsky and forum contributors and unless specifically stated are not those of Axisweb. See our terms and conditions


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