How it began
You might wonder what it means to squat-slash-occupy the historically loaded term of the Working Class. We have faced criticism for playing with it all too lavishly and ironically, and for aestheticizing historical, painful, deadly gaps and struggles for the mere taste of today’s hedonistic escapism. But, to be honest with ourselves, the term Working Class was already hijacked long ago, and there is an urgency for revisiting the problems of those for whom it can stand. The ecosystem of the arts has lost its source of innovation. Constructive confrontations are no longer possible without cancellation. And that is the reason why we’re searching for a mutating situation where opportunities can arise for everyone, at the intersection of economic wealth and the wealth of the imagination.
Our model for the redistribution of wealth is specific. It deploys traditional services in advertisement, but the impact of those sales is extrapolated to make everyone aware of how community can be built by recognition. The financial conditions in which the street newspaper was born consist of a gray zone of not having access to funding, and the help of fiscal partners that allowed us to receive a donation. Without remuneration or sponsors, our main capital has been our own ideas, sweat, blood and tears. Those living in privilege and who would be willing to contribute to the paper’s circulation and meaning, are invited to realize that it would only help to improve our labor conditions. We can prove the rest.
How it’s going
Yet after three years of editorial and activist work, the questions of organization are still open: how to build from the desert of hierarchy? How to invest in each other when the investments are only profit-based and where humans are fallible? How to walk towards fair labour conditions when we are the first to be subjected to fatigue and we don’t know how to be honest about our condition of self-exploitation and potential exploitation of others? AWC is still a worksite, where the labour conditions are precarious but affectionate, tiring but rewarding, fees are humble for everyone and in the constant process of negotiation among its founders, team and occasional collaborators. In the face of an ideal of interdependence, AWC demands of those who share the same purpose of the contribution of ideas, effort and willingness, to make mistakes together and to learn collectively about how to find a new tempo and a place in the process of change.
How we work
The work within and around this paper needs everyone involved to be fluid, passionate, empathetic and transparent. The work is hard, the pay is bad, the publishers earn less per hour than the trainees. Still, something remains, in spite of behaviours within the safe spaces, the misunderstandings and the intrigues propagated about it: this street newspaper is for everyone. And for that, ambivalence is an act of willingness and togetherness, on the level of transformative and educative collaboration, for everyone. The world is ruled by badly administered businesses, and so moving beyond, AWC needs to be an inclusive venture that benefits the many: poor, indigent, disabled people, never abandoning the dialectic of pursuing change from within the system.
Why we work like this
Arts of the Working Class (AWC) rises from the ruins of working conditions. Conditions that demand immediacy instead of stability, that praise competition over solidarity/coalition, indifference over care and commitment, production over sustainability. The global society we live in doesn’t leave space for those who don’t comply with these conditions. It turns everyone into frustrated beasts. The people currently shaping this street newspaper operate in a temporal conjunction that belongs more to a pursuit for fairness, beauty and collective understanding, rather than an overnight coup against the inhumane reality of capitalism. Yet in being very aware of its own roots, AWC chooses to dwell on the unexplored ground of the present where everything is to be negotiated and built, while trying to find renewed words, ideals, aesthetics and economics for the future.
What you are holding in your hands comes out every two months, with contributions from artists, academics and activists from around the world, published in multiple languages, writing about and through artistic practice about what brings us together. Every issue is a polyphonic assembly fed by the wealth of imaginative thinking worldwide. It contains no superficial illustrations, no bullshit, and it is given for free to anyone who would like to sell it. Vendors keep 100% of the revenues, there is no registration needed, you just come to one of our pick-up points in Berlin, Venice or Athens, take as many as you want, and go earning.
How is it financed?
By curated advertisement, media partnerships and donations from our generous readers. What vendors get is a product that people like to buy, not because of benevolence but because they want to read it. Also because it looks extremely charming. What clients and partners get is a place in a gathering of interesting and challenging perspectives and positions, creating awareness for the role and relevance of their work not only within the art world, but in wider society. What we get, as Arts of the Working Class, is the most inspiring and rewarding workplace that we could have built for ourselves and for others. Our priority is that everyone contributing is being paid. Fair payment is something that we are currently working on.