Marge Monko's "Sheperds of Art"
Although artist and his/her work stands in the middle of the art world, the artist still tends to be the only one in this structure working without a salary. There are two legal ways of existence for an artist offered by our state – to work as a self-employed (artist-manufacturer à la Tauno Kangro or Epp-Maria Kokamägi) or as a freelance artist who has the right to apply for a support that equals the minimum wage during six months (it is not allowed to have any other income!).
Shaking hands with the guards is a follow-up to the action at the annual exhibition of Estonian Artists‘ Association (Useful work, 2008) where I swept off the dust from exhibited works. Both the cleaning-up job’s and guarding work‘s purpose is the maintenance and preservation of the art work. The activities related to maintaining and preserving are historically considered to be work done by women.
Similarly to my previous documentation of shaking hands with customer service consultants in Tallinn’s Department Store (Ladies‘ Paradise, 2008), majority of the guards participated in this project are female and retired – the fact that makes evident the segregation of gender and age in the labour market. One can assume that one of the reasons why out of 909 members of Estonian Artists‘ Association 609 are female is that money to pay for work is lacking in this domain.
Shaking hands with guards in art galleries and museums is thus visual statistics and an act of solidarity – one underpaid female meeting the other.