What exactly is ILSSA? Impractical Labor in Service of the Speculative Arts is an art project and membership organization seeking to unite theory and practice. It was established in 2008 by two artists/letterpress printers as a means to build community with like-minded makers through the shared exploration of issues related to art, craft, and labor. ILSSA functions as a Union that fosters solidarity and creates opportunities for its members, and as a Research Institute that supports and publishes new ideas, communications, and resources. ILSSA hosts a listserv and organizes events (exhibibitions, an annual holiday) to connect all impractical laborers. The listserv also enables ILSSA Members to propose projects or ask questions 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.
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 respect 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 $20 a year. Members join the listserv, and receive issues of the ILSSA Quarterly as they are published. Union members are encouraged to propose projects for ILSSA to pursue and participate in any ILSSA organized events.
3) If you are interested in ILSSA but do not make such work yourself, or you would like to collect ILSSA publications without becoming a member, you are invited to support ILSSA as a Booster through the postage-paid purchase of an ILSSA box set for $112 North America / $124 international. Boosters go a tremendous way to funding our endeavors. We thank you for your support!
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 347 Shop FS is "Local" cell phone area code 347 "Shop" Flatbed Splendor.
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 work that prioritizes process and the first-hand experience of time over the exchange value of such time.
Why IN SERVICE OF? ILSSA is interested in art as a service as well as a process and an end product: in this case, in service of artists / makers. ILSSA is an organization for practitioners, a way of connecting with other artists / 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 operator(at)impractical-labor.org.