Navigators of Risk: Artists

"Out of necessity, artists are expert at juggling intermittent bouts of barely profitable creative work with more numerous and routine jobs in construction, standardized graphic design, and other service industries. Artists not only incessantly retrain themselves to satisfy novel working conditions, they establish complex social networks made up of other, semi-employed artists, as well as family members, friends, and on occasion, the patron. These networks circulate material support, as well as a great deal of intangible, informational assistance in the form of opportunities for auditions, exhibitions, publications, technical solutions, even gossip. Supplementing this precarious existence is the occasional monetary gift from a parent or a foundation grant or residency … 

As French Sociologist Pierre-Michel Menger points out, artists as an occupational group tend to be “younger than the general workforce, better educated, and concentrated in a few metropolitan areas." …

Menger insists that studying artists’ careers is useful insofar as it illuminates “how individuals learn to manage the risks of their trade.” In the case of artists this involves the continuous transfer of risk downwards into a “highly flexible and disintegrated organizational setting.” All of which leads the sociologist to depict a Lilliputian version of neoliberalism in which artists operate within a continuous state of oversupply disequilibrium. And yet despite this inherent precariousness and the built-in “income penalty” the market charges for becoming an artist, the number of people claiming that title is on the rise."

–Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture. Gregory Sholette. 2011.