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Industria is an artist-run organisation, examining and challenging the current conditions of the ‘art world’
Industria is against:
an exploitative ‘art world’ that requires the precarity of artists and a low-wage, gig economy in order to run.
Industria is for:
an (art) world that dismantles myths of meritocracy, seeking unconditional dignity and the possibility of creative lives for all.
About us & our relationship to artistic precarity:
In introducing ourselves, we want to map out the shifting landscape of disappearing support structures for artists over the course of the last half century by way of our family histories, demonstrating how these changing material conditions and political circumstances have resulted in the current dire situation for artists. We are Industria, the shared identity of two artists and art workers, plus an umbrella title under which we foster collaborations with wider working groups. To situate ourselves and make transparent our potential for complicity in a status quo that offers us a degree of comfort and protection, we are two white, cis, non-disabled women artists in our early 30s.
The two of us met at art school in London in 2012, the first cohort of students paying £9000 per year for an undergraduate degree. Both white British, we were born in London in 1992 and 1993, both to parents who went to art school in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In that small generational gap, the role and accessibility of higher education has changed radically. The narrow moment in which higher education was effectively free (and even included grants to cover living expenses for some) – from the introduction of the Education Art in 1962 under Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government to its repeal under Tony Blair in 1998 – meant that three out of the four of them were the first in their families to go to university. When they emerged, it was still just about possible for artists to ‘sign on’, and even Thatcher’s Enterprise Allowance Scheme could be used to support an emerging art practice. Rents and studio rents had not accelerated beyond affordability, and squatting was still a viable option for young artists, particularly in parts of South and East London, which fostered vibrant art scenes in the 1980s and 90s.
In 1979, after a rapid expansion of social housing during the 1970s, 42% of people in Great Britain lived in council homes, a figure which has dwindled to a stigmatised minority of just 8% as of 2016. The right-to-buy scheme introduced by Thatcher in 1980 decimated the social housing stock, and propelled the acceleration of the property market to the increasingly unaffordable rents and purchase prices we see today.
In 1988, the parents of one member of Industria moved into a home in North London which was one of the few survivors of the rapidly eroding stock of social housing. She was born there, grew up there, and her parents still live there over 30 years later. Her father could not have continued to be an artist without the secured ‘fair rent’ policy that signing their contract in 1988 provided.
The other half of Industria had a middle-class upbringing, enabled by her parents’ education and their eventual decision to work in state sector art education rather than as practising artists. Her parents bought a small two-bedroom house in South East London in 1990, before the property boom made house prices unaffordable. In 2001, they moved to Kent together for more space and a new, higher paid, teaching job for her father.
Our access to art education, despite intimidatingly inflated fees from 2012 onwards, was dependent on the cultural capital and sense of possibility inherited from the onward chain of ‘social mobility’ created by that brief window in which our parents went to university. Although one of us grew up materially working class, qualifying for free school meals and the full Educational Maintenance Allowance, being a child of an artist parent offered a middle-class gloss which has eased her entry to, and movement through, the ‘art world’. However, it is the housing stability which she is now afforded through her partner which has meant she has been able to keep practising as an artist.
The landscape into which we graduated is dramatically different to that of our parents' generation, with the schemes and loopholes on which they were able to rely now closed, and the costs of living, housing, and studios soaring. Having emerged from art school nearly seven years ago, we now both work in precarious nearly-full-time roles (in hospitality and various art-related freelance positions, respectively) to support our artistic practices, with full awareness that our accumulated cultural capital and middle-classness give us less insecurity and better pay than many.
These overlapping and divergent histories have set the terms of our lives and ‘careers’ so far. Thinking about them together has helped shape our shared political consciousness and informed our work as Industria