Art is bound by a paradox. At one level it resists taking definitive shape in space and time. Stepping outside the boundaries of ordinary, prosaic systems of understanding, action and interaction, art suggests a realm of alternative possibility. But at the same time it must inevitably take distinct cultural form in order to appear – to attain identifiable shape. Aspects of space and time are reworked then within a context that itself represents a conventional organisation of space and time. To further complicate matters, art’s reworking of space and time involves, in equal measures, conceiving the new and reshaping tradition within the context of the present. That is, art facilitates continuity as much as it does transformation. It mediates between these contrary tendencies, enabling their dialogue and mutual imbrication.

The question for me is how the work of art-making can be conceived within this paradoxical space? If it is positioned as straightforward labour then surely this undermines its capacity to unsettle the spatio-temporal organisation of ordinary work? But perhaps there is less a need to avoid the notion of labour altogether than to intimately, materially rethink it – to tease out dimensions of iteration and alterity that unsettle its social meaning. In this case it may useful to consider not only human labour but also the labour of things, of automated processes. Because if labour reduces human beings to mere instruments then it is possibly within the alienated space of the instrumental that another thinking, another order of experience, another push, pull and play of motion may emerge. But of course this is also to risk passing beyond the safety of art’s reflective return. Determining the nature of artistic labour differently may fundamentally affect the conception – and conceptual sway – of art.

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