What exactly is ILSSA? Impractical Labor in Service of the Speculative Arts is a member-based artist organization uniting theory and practice. It is organized around two interconnected models: a labor Union and a Research Institute. The Union hosts a listserv and organizes events to connect all impractical laborers, fostering solidarity, community and fellowship. The listserv also enables ILSSA Members to propose projects, events and publications to the group. The Research Institute conducts research and publishes original literature in the form of the ILSSA Quarterly, addressing issues of interest to impractical laborers and the general public. Members and Boosters receive the Quarterly, and in the near future will be invited to contribute to it.
Why a union? A union is an organization formed around labor interests -- an organization created for workers, by workers, in order to better their lives. We have immense respect for how unions have been able to improve material conditions for workers through collective bargaining with employers. The ILSSA Union is different: since impractical laborers often toil alone and have no employer, our Union seeks to improve spiritual conditions for these workers. While we find the union model useful and inspiring, ILSSA is not limited as a guild or trade union may be, by hierarchy of experience or type of trade. Instead, ILSSA is a union for those who make experimental or conceptual work with obsolete technology, and its members are self-appointed believers in its mission.
How can I join? There are 3 ways to get involved with ILSSA:
1) If you are interested in learning more about ILSSA as it grows, subscribe to the listserv.
2) If you use obsolete technology in conceptual or experimental ways, you are invited to join the Union as a Member for $12 a "year," which may contain more months than 12, depending upon the tardiness of our publishing schedule. Members join the listserv, receive a Union membership card, and at least 2 issues of the ILSSA Quarterly. Union members may also propose publications or projects for ILSSA to pursue and participate in any ILSSA organized events.
3) If you support the ILSSA mission but do not make such work yourself, you are invited to join as a Booster, also for $12 a "year." Boosters receive all the membership privileges of members, and are rewarded for their loyalty with a Booster button in place of the Union membership card.
Please explain the "local" / "shop" structure used to identify Union members. Your "local" is your cell phone area code. Your "shop" is the initials of your name or your production label, the "workshop" from which you produce. So for example, Local 917 Shop RC is "Local" cell phone area code 917 "Shop" Red Charming.
Why obsolete technology (OT)? The current economic crisis is a result in part of an over-extension of credit, a cultural obsession with the new, and a devaluation of means. It is time to reconsider how we live and why we live. Embracing what we already have and reapproaching it creatively is an essential part of this reconsideration. Sustainability, affordability, accessibility; controlling the means of production; opportunities for fresh solutions due to severe restrictions; labor-intensive processes which highlight the inverse relationship of meaningful work and remuneration; a prioritization of process over product: these are the values shared by many, if not all, forms of OT. In addition, ILSSA engages Marshall McLuhan's notion that OT, once freed from serving its original purpose, becomes an artform.
What kinds of obsolete technology? All kinds. The ILSSA Organizers are both trained in obsolete printing technology. But this is a starting point, not a limitation, and we live in an age in which technologies are rendered obsolete within months of their first implementation. We are interested in conceptual work made with yesteryear computer programs, fibers, old cell phones, needlework, antiquated robotics, agricultural processes... you name it.
What is IMPRACTICAL LABOR? Impractical Labor is a protest against contemporary industrial practices and values. Instead it favors independent workshop production by antiquated means and in relatively limited quantities. Economy of scale goes out the window, as does the myth that time must equal money. Impractical Labor seeks to restore the relationship between a maker and her tools; a maker and her time; a maker and what she makes. The process is the end, not the product. Impractical Labor is idealized labor: the labor of love.
Why IN SERVICE OF? ILSSA is interested in art as a service as well as an end product: in this case, in service of the maker. ILSSA is an organization for practitioners, a way of connecting with other makers who share similar interests and concerns. Our aim is to together reconsider how and what and why we make, in the hope of making things better.
What are THE SPECULATIVE ARTS? The Speculative Arts are conceptual works which break down disciplinary divides between so-called fine art, craft, and design.
Are you guys Amish? Nope.
But I have other questions? Please ask us! Email operatoratimpractical-labor.org.