Together with Julek Kreutzer, Kareth Schaffer founded “The Artist’s Pledge” initiative (in German: das Künstlergelöbnis) in 2012 to call attention to the (self-)exploitative tendencies of the Berlin dance scene. Born out of the necessity of resisting precarity and its negative consequences for artistic creation and social/political engagement, the artist’s pledge is a way for artists to claim responsibility for their own working conditions. Every artist can pledge what they need to do in order to ensure and protect their artistic work: the artist’s pledge is an individual and peaceful protest against predominant mechanisms of dependency. Everyone can choose if they will work with or independently of seemingly self-evident modes of production (24-hour availability, urban nomadism, unpaid rehearsals in spite of state subsidy…).
“The Artist’s Pledge” initiative has three goals:
1) Constructing individual consciousness for one’s own working conditions;
2) Cultivating appreciation for the work of dancers within the contemporary dance scene;
3) Creating a broader social understanding for the demands of the independent arts scene through the individual situations described in the pledges
The website of the Artist’s Pledge is here. The pledges are publised to the site anonymously, and anyone can feel free to write one. The following is Kareth’s own pledge:
“Today, flexible and project-based employment is no longer a novelty of the artistic world but a prerequisite for participation in today’s job market. Societal expectations of continual growth are sustained by the conception of an ever-more flexible individual who is constantly evolving, constantly learning, constantly acquiring more responsibility, and thus constantly working. The dictum of continuous availability and willingness to work has, in Berlin’s contemporary dance scene as well as elsewhere, led to the acceptance of deteriorated working conditions and consequently a devaluation of what it means to work (and to live) in the (dance-)world. Positing that the freedom to choose one’s working conditions should not equate to self-exploitation, the following pledge aims to define the artist’s responsibility to herself.
I pledge to protect myself in the course of my working life. To maintain the quality and engagement of my artistic work and to secure my physical, emotional, and financial well-being, I pledge to ensure adequate rest, adequate compensation, and adequate acknowledgment for my work as a choreographer, performer, dramaturge, and writer.
I pledge to schedule one day per week in which I am free from any work-related obligations: no performances, no rehearsals, no meetings, no classes, no correspondence. “Work-related obligations” include duties that are unrelated to my artistic career but necessary for my financial survival.
I pledge to dedicate six weeks over the course of each year to extended periods of rest and reflection, free from any work-related obligations.
I pledge to ensure adequate compensation for my work in any artistic endeavor. I pledge to define “adequate compensation” on an individual case basis with parameters including but not limited to: the institutions involved in the financing of the project, the amount of funding made available, what expertise is being asked of me, and how much I myself am personally invested in the project. Especially in regards to state-funded projects, I pledge to ensure compensation that is in relation to my education, experience, and the costs of living in Berlin.
I pledge to maintain an open dialogue with anyone with whom I work about the conditions under which we are working.
If I am involved in the budgetary organization of a project, I pledge to be transparent about its financial structure towards all of my collaborators.
I pledge to ensure that my work – as performer, consultant, choreographer, or otherwise – is acknowledged in all press communications regarding the projects to which I contribute.
Furthermore, in all endeavors initiated by me, I pledge to respect the basic working conditions described in this statement for all of my co-collaborators, and to do my utmost to ensure adequate compensation, acknowledgement, and rest for those who have agreed to work with me.
Berlin, den 25.07.2012″