Mysti – Vika Kirchenbauer, two-channel video installation, 2017
video still from DEATH COACHES LLC

“Not only could you travel upward toward success but you could travel downward as well; up and down, in retreat as well as in advance, crabways and crossways and around in a circle, meeting your old selves coming and going and perhaps all at the same time” - Ralph Ellison

Contrary to rhetoric, the artist is an outcome-orientated career. Everything done by the artist assumes it will have a future value. Where do artists fit when making work meant to solidify notions of art as higher cultural value worth aspiration, when understanding institutions as generous platforms that exist only to fulfill their exhibitionistic desires?

The artist's self-identification with her own work must be produced from a place of authentic attachment and emotion. The mandate to think outside of the box, find self-fulfillment in what one does, to share burden and cocktails with one's associates in a way to overcome the divisions between life and work is found in start-up culture and other forms of the New Economy. They draw inspiration from the affective glue with which the art world keeps itself working, and in particular: via the artist's perception of her practice. Love is abuse’s most discreet tool, prescribing slow death to the greater workforce. The artist is the deadly cliché that allows for violence to be misinterpreted as passion, or minimally acknowledged as an unpleasant albeit necessary implement toward an inarticulate, often cagey, vision.

excerpt from DEATH COACHES LLC

The intimate connection with the products of one’s own labor is now a standard measure of any modern worker’s passion, dedication and identification. Uniqueness and independence, always assumed innate within the field of art, now burden contemporary chefs, latte artists, social media managers, receptionists become day-makers, and retail employees as brand representatives. Sharing a belief that unique callings flatten a world of un-equals, everyone is expected to follow their dream or at least perform as if.

To want to make art is to want to be middle-class. Artists are not workers, but entrepreneurs who produce in hopes of finding a market, be it institutional or commercial. A visual artist possesses relative independence given the autocratic nature of intellectual properties, likening her to those who want to be their own boss: to hold authority over the conditions of her own work and yet acquiesce in facilitating her own exploitation, confusing her own exploitative measures over others as gestures of support, shared dedication or real love. As the status, privilege and drive to do what one loves hold assumed value, there is inevitably a surplus of artist-entrepreneurs offering work that has already been executed (if not finalized, then at least in the form of elaborate project plans forecasting future actualization upon funding). Thus artists help produce an ideology that rebrands exploitation as self-realization, presents work as a pure act of self-love naturally independent from immediate compensation.

excerpt from DEATH COACHES LLC

People choose to enter a winner-take-all market, studying art completely aware of its limited prospects of success, yet must at the same time suspend this knowledge in the name of optimism and self-worth. Those privileged few who manage to make money from their passionate investments are celebrated for bravery and dedication to vision. This heroic understanding of risk reincarnates itself as a daily necessity shouldered by the masses, under the promise of rejuvenating and recharging continually. To not take risks is to accept oneself as a failure - be there a security net or not.

In the individualistic field of contemporary art, success can only be framed as personal merit, never recognizing itself as a form of relative privilege and favorable circumstance because each unique gesture is considered objectively better. Life-coaching is the transformation business, teaching passive people that all they do is wither… that pathetically failing to act out one’s unique calling willfully cements class distinctions. The role of a life coach is to author a customized transformation of the client, reimagining the client as product whose value is to be determined. So beyond the experiential value of the service, the customer's aim is their very own commodification, their impulse not dissimilar from the art spectator’s impulse to visit a museum: they are looking for a life-changing event.

excerpt from DEATH COACHES LLC

Speed toward deadly dreams, living lies already barely living. Avoiding the upset of yearning for a change that cannot be had without a revision of terms that most certainly reduces one’s own value. Will one simply give up on life, life-as-work, which is the only rubric of working in which any value might be ascribed now? Sacrificing the convenient identity of having made it for the complexity of not being done just yet… not quite right…

Performers – MYSTI, Vika Kirchenbauer
Cinematography – Rita Macedo
Sound – Martin Sulzer