︎︎︎join the union (coming soon)

Performance by correspondence
Accomplices Artist Gathering | 2019

A performance and aspirational organizing project for workers of all kinds in art. One day, it may also be a union.

2015 - present
Do We Need An International Artists Union?*

*This is an artwork, not an organizing effort.


… Art is not a luxury, but rather an integral part of human experience, serving necessarily a social function, and thus should be available to all as both viewers and makers.

… Cultural work is work and should be recognized, valued, and compensated as such.

… Artistic genius is a myth of the colonial patriarchy. All ideas build upon past formulations and all production is inherently collaborative, based as it is on frequently invisible labor, whether this is in the form of uncredited production assistance or devaluing of reproductive labor (cooking, cleaning, child-rearing),

that makes it possible for some to create at a more efficient rate than others, and nearly impossible for still others to have the time / freedom / resources to undertake publicly-recognizable cultural work altogether.**

… Success is not a zero-sum game, and while we have been taught as artists that others’ success is an affront to our own, in fact active cooperation generates more resources and possibilities than we could ever dream of alone.

… As individual artists and cultural workers, we are left to negotiate rates and working conditions on a case to case basis, with little or no recourse in the settling of pay / copyright / maternity / harassment / discrimination conflicts, making the transformative possibilities of cultural work a frequent afterthought.

… As Arab artists, we are too often expected to provide content fitting orientalist frameworks and changing geopolitical agendas, with each new period directing resources to certain identities / nationalities only to move elsewhere following changing (often colonial) priorities over which we have no control, and further pitting us against each other for access to even basic resources. This situates us as tokens in a global market that values different versions of the same old thing, over work addressing questions urgent to our lives and communities.

… There are precedents for such organizational forms on different scales across the Arab world (Baghdad Artists Conference; Lebanese Cinema Technicians Union; Egyptian Syndicate of Plastic Arts). While these all have many shortcomings and major problems, they are nonethless useful precedents, and show cooperation is not a foreign import, it can be revived, expanded, and refined.

An International Cross-Sectorial Artist Union would allow us to set and enforce artist fees, production wages, and standards that meet our costs of living and of production. It would provide us greater collective and individual power to negotiate with art and academic institutions and other powerbrokers, and to imagine and create structures and forms for a regional cultural production that is necessary, meaningful, locally-relevant — even transformative — of everyday life, our communities, our world.

Join the Union.

** All ideas in this document have been stated before in some form by well-known and obscure alike (Tania Bruguera, Karl Marx, Silvia Federici, Samir Amin, many others we haven’t heard of).