Valencia & Los Angeles, California
HIRE ME OUT
Hire Me Out took place throughout Los Angeles and on campus at the California Institute of the Arts from 1999 till the end of 2000. The project sought to expand my ideas on authorship and the role of the Artist by using a collaborative model which at the time also provided me with a supplemented income. The paid work carried out in the project helped me to support myself financially through my final year at college.
Those wishing to hire out my services either found me by word of mouth, my business card or emailed me via my site which at that time was hiremeout.com. When someone hired me out they also understood that it would be recorded on video and that this documentation would also serve as my material to be used for my own purposes. The contractual agreement was based purely on my meetings and the proceeding negotiations that took place with the individual who was interested in hiring me out. At the time I also tried to create a legally binding work agreement in writing which in the end was not possible due to the illegality of working without an appropriate visa. On a number of occasions, these negotiations also sought to test the limits as to what boundaries I set for myself in terms of what things I was not up for hire. Some of the services I performed over the year included constructing student’s artwork, cleaning, driving people to LAX, artist assistance, fabrication, painting, massages and sex.
There was much discussion in critique classes around the exploitative processes and alienated labour practices which emerged out my choice to use the minimum wage rate of $5.25/hr. for which my services were on offer, and how important this reference was to illegal work, underground economies, artist assistant’s pay rates in Los Angeles and whether or not I was altruistic in my intention towards others. There were also questions arising from whether or not the work fetishized labour and in so doing, negated any form of critique the work could produce.
The conversations examining exploitation also dealt with my role as the sole exploiter within the exchange since it was I who was getting paid to make my work out of other artists work, or that I was turning real alienated labour into a performance which made it less real since I literally recorded my actions on camera. However, from my perspective these types of discussions felt inappropriate since both parties agreed on the rate of pay which often changed depending on the financial status of the person hiring me out and what was both agreed and expected of me in the exchange. I also did not try and shift the boundaries of this agreement once I “contractually” engaged with party.
I don’t believe that performance art necessarily turns something real into something fictional just because it is framed within aesthetics; if anything it makes it seem more real, since from my experience any jobs I’ve had which don’t relate to aesthetics are my own fiction - they are the lie or are experienced as non-time which I have to endure in order to get to the real time of making art.
It’s also important to note that not everyone who hired me out (artists included) saw it as a form of collaboration, especially if it was solely based on design or remedial tasks such as cleaning, driving or cutting wood – simply put, cheap labour. One of the main questions that I was asking myself and the viewer was what is the Author’s job? …and where is it located? By discursively adopting many different roles and subjecting myself to the demands of others, I tried to show that my documentation once it had been assembled to fabricate my own production could still qualify as my own artwork. Although the project raised many different issues and problems that were not always foregrounded in my thinking, it became an important model to return to when considering the artists’ responsibility that they have to another human being from both a moral and an ethical perspective.
The archive still exists, with a reduced number of about fifty VHS tapes which are still in my possession. These have now been digitized.
Ismael De Ande
Meu Ping (MoMo)