Artists and Multiple Job Holding-Breadwinning Work as Mediating between Bohemian and Entrepreneurial Identities and Behavior

By Lindström, Sofia | Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies, September 2016 | Go to article overview

Artists and Multiple Job Holding-Breadwinning Work as Mediating between Bohemian and Entrepreneurial Identities and Behavior


Lindström, Sofia, Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies


Introduction

Artists are known to be typically self-employed or working on freelance basis, developing 'portfolio careers' of either commercial or grant-based work and projects (Hausmann, 2010; Menger, 1999; Throsby & Zednick, 2011). The consequences of the portfolio career are often pervasive insecurity with spells in and out of unemployment, as well as irregular and low income (Flisbäck, 2011; Hausmann, 2010). In order to counter this, artists typically do 'day jobs' (in Sweden often known as having 'breadwinning work') in order to sustain a living (Bain, 2005; Lingo & Tepper, 2013; McRobbie, 2011; Menger, 1999; Throsby, 2010). Taylor and Littleton (2012: p. 120) refer to this as artists leading 'double lives'. Although artists rank among the highest in the percentage of workers with secondary jobs, there is a 'lack of any serious treatment of multiple job holding' (Menger, 1999, p. 544). Especially overlooked is the nonartistic work that is often part of artist's overall work activity, as well as the nature of that activity (Throsby & Zednick, 2011). As stated by Lingo and Tepper (2013), there is a need to better understand the importance of different work artists do, also nonarts work, in relation to the possibility to sustain an identity as an artist.

In studies dedicated to the working conditions of artists, work held alongside the artistic activity is often perceived negatively, as it prevents artists from dedicating themselves to art on a full-time basis (Bain, 2005; Flisbäck, 2006; Foster, 2012; Menger, 2009; Pralong et al., 2012; Throsby, 2010). However, this article will argue that negative narratives of multiple work can be contrasted by positive narratives. How then, can we understand different narrations of experiences of breadwinning work? The aim of the paper is to discuss how identity formation, work behavior, understandings of success as well as working conditions relate to either positive or negative narrations of multiple job holding. It is argued that artists whose identity and work behavior is understood according to the ideal type 'bohemian', that is, adopting an ethic of art as lifestyle and a rejection of the market, are more likely to form positive narratives of breadwinning work. Conversely, artists whose work behavior is understood as 'entrepreneurial' as they do not reject the market, although constructing their artistic identity in accordance to bohemian ethics of art as a lifestyle, are more likely to form negative narrative of breadwinning work. However, it was found that if the conditions of the breadwinning work were too insecure, such as having little or no possibility for stable employment and/ or control over work hours (c.f. Kalleberg, 2011), the artists' narration of multiple job holding will be negative regardless of artistic identity/behavior. The article will conclude by a discussion of the implications of these results for policy regarding artistic work.

Artistic work and multiple job holding in Sweden

Writers on sociology of work have described changes in the structural and institutional contexts of work in most advances economies since the 1970s, resulting in the polarization of work and a rise in nonstandard and precarious forms of labor, such as temporary work, multiple job holding, project-based work, and involuntary self-employment (Kalleberg, 2011; Standing, 2011). The understanding of artists' experiences and coping strategies of precarious work thus becomes important for the broader work force (Lingo &Tepper, 2013)1. Compared to other workers known to have precarious working conditions, artists are predominantly middle class and have long educational years, aspects that traditionally shelter individuals from precarity (Gustavsson et al., 2012; Standing, 2011). Also, artists have been theorized as not belonging to the sphere of work or even outside society itself, with the argument that they voluntarily exclude themselves (Becker, 1997; Gerber, 2015; Oakely, 2009). …

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