Does it matter where an artist lives?


This article on Online Digital Artwork and the Status of theBasedIn’ Artist by the group W.A.G.E. might be of interest in light of our discussions on transnationalism, as well as in relation to our upcoming readings on sites and cities. It asks, does it matter where artists live when they produce work that exists in the unmoored conditions of online space? What are the political implications of the tendency to deterritorialize the art world and artistic labour? Here are some excerpts:

Housed and hosted online, digital artworks dodge geolocation. They affiliate more with domain names than with cities, states, or nations. Digital artworks are located everywhere and nowhere, and in many cases can be produced entirely through online communication.

Like anyone else, artists are often born in one place and based in another. The distinction between “born in” and “based in”—ubiquitous in curriculum vitae, press releases, and artists’ websites—signifies whatever social mobility may have occurred since birth, while also denoting home as more of a base camp from which an artist’s practice is deployed to various locations within a globalized market. The basedin artist, hard to locate, is contemporary art’s most useful enigma. They are wiredup, networked carriers of social and cultural capital set in perpetual motion, transforming cities in their passage through them on the art circuit—sophisticated nomadic clans who travel to survive.

The forced migratory pattern of the basedin artist traces the contours of the capital it follows, demarcating an everexpanding art field that is deeply connected to the reorganization of cities. But basedin artists not only follow capital along these circuits. Capital also follows them. As has been well documented, the presence of artists, followed by cultural organizations, signals the coming expulsion of lowincome residents and the arrival of a more moneyed class. So in the context of this project, which ties the value of labor to the artist’s place of residence, it must be asked: Does it even matter where an artist lives?

To the extent that the migratory pattern of artists leaves its mark on the sites where it touches down, it matters. To the extent that the basedin artist denotes an exceptional class position that both follows the movement of capital and determines its directional flow, it matters. To the extent that this exceptional class position both exempts and prevents artists from taking a political position, it matters. And to the extent that W.A.G.E. is a political project built around the interests of artists, it matters—because while W.A.G.E doesn’t claim to speak for everyone, we can nonetheless stake a claim, and for the purposes of this project, that claim can be the reclamation, recuperation, and redistribution of our fair share of the obscene amount of money pipelined into the art field and channeled through the hands of the transnational elite.

So where W.A.G.E. is unable to establish equitable compensation standards across the industry, it is incumbent upon artists to address, on an individual basis, the exceptional status by which they are made to stand in their own way by not standing alongside those who make their work possible. To fully join the supercommunity that is the art field, artists must acknowledge that their labor is not exceptional in its support of and exploitation by a multibilliondollar industry, while simultaneously putting their exceptionality to work by engaging their own labor on political terms, and as a political act.

Image of Adrian Paci’s Temporary Shelter Centre (2007) via


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