Metropolitan Factory

making a living as a creative worker

Event tomorrow: The Shape of the Contemporary Workplace

We are talking tomorrow as part of the Immaterial Labour Isn’t Working series of events:

The Shape of the Contemporary Workplace  –  Saturday, 27th of April @ 2pm

Auto Italia South East
Unit 2, 3 York Way, King’s Cross, N1C 4AE


How is a contemporary workplace organised? In Fordist workplaces, time and motion studies monitored workers’ activity in order to make the industrial process more efficient and productive. In response, workers and intellectuals in post-war Italy began mapping their own workplaces in order to better plot resistance and sabotage. How can we, as workers within the ‘new economy’ begin to understand our own working conditions? Joanna Figiel and Stevphen Shukaitis will look at contemporary working conditions for precarious workers within the arts, culture and education and how we understand our own working lives.

Metropolitan Glide, Metropolitan Strike?

Standing on Federal Hill in Baltimore, looking down at the development of the inner harbor, one is struck by many things. Perhaps the most obvious thing, regardless of what one thinks of the process that led to its development, is that the buildings and their arrangement are rather ugly. Not just in the way downtown looks, but even more so in what it does: how the city operates as a factory, isolating people from each other, channeling social relations into prescribed routes, and preventing others from forming.

David Harvey, standing on the hill looking down at the inner city to revisit the arguments he made in an essay on the development of the area, responded to this observation with the comment that it was “really quite a strange thing that the bourgeois has no imagination.” That is, it has no sense of creativity that can devise anything more appealing in its domination and transformation of the social space and the urban environment. This may seem like a minor point or a trite observation. What does it matter how aesthetically appealing or how well-designed an area is when there are more crucial questions and ongoing issues of communities being displaced, workers being exploited, and the nature of social life being shaped by the needs of capital? This question is a valid one to a degree. But what is interesting about such an observation is the process it hints at and what this can tell us about the development of capitalism in today’s post-industrial cities.

Whether or not the bourgeois has any creativity is debatable (Marx himself marveled at the inventiveness of the ruling class in transforming social reality, albeit usually for the worse). However, regardless of such a debate, what can be said with certainty is that the bourgeoisie is skilled at stealing the imagination and creativity of others. And this is precisely what the history of the transformations of the city generally shows us. As soon as social/political movements and new artistic developments arise, they are seized upon by real estate developers, urban planners, and policy makers to create the image of a new ‘hip’ district that will boost real estate prices, attract “more desirable” residents, and so forth in a perpetual spiral of capitalist development. Read the rest of this entry »

Talk with a response from Mikkel Bolt

August 22nd, 2012

Talk featuring Stevphen Shukaitis with a response from Mikkel Bolt at Møllegades Boghandel, Copenhagen
Facebook event here, come join us!

A nomadic seminar

Galway, July 25th – August 1st, 2012

From tomorrow, Stevphen will be wandering through the metropolis, drifting in and out of the Galway Arts Festival and the Fringe Festival, investigating the changing conditions of creative labor and interviewing workers. More info here.


Please contribute to our research project exploring working lives of creative workers and artists living in the metropolis.
You are welcome to:

  • Fill out a short series of questions on balancing work, life, and your artistic / cultural practice. The survey is here.
  • Take part in a recorded interview about balancing life and work in the creative city.
  • Send along images of your studio and/or workspace, or anything that illustrates how you go about your practice.

Get in touch at metropolitanfactory @ gmail . com

Making a Living in the Creative City

Making a Living in the Creative City

Surviving as a cultural or artistic worker in the city has never been easy. Creative workers find themselves celebrated as engines of economic growth, economic recovery and urban revitalization even as the conditions for our continued survival become more precarious.

How can you make a living today in such a situation? That is, how to hold together the demands of paying the rent and bills while managing all the tasks necessary to support one’s practice? How to manage the tensions between creating spaces for creativity and imagination while working through the constraints posed by economic conditions?

In a more traditional workplace it is generally easy to distinguish between those who planned and managed the labor process and those who were involved in its executions: between the managers and the managed. For creative workers these distinctions become increasingly hard to make. Today the passionate and self-motivated labor of the artisan increasingly becomes the model for a self-disciplining, self-managed labor force that works harder, longer, and often for less pay precisely because of its attachment to some degree of personal fulfillment in forms of engaging work. And that is no way to make a living, having to struggle three times as hard to have a sense of engagement in meaningful work.

This project sets out to investigate how cultural workers in the modern metropolis manage these competing tensions and demands. The goal is to bring together the dispersed knowledges and experiences of creative workers finding ways to make a living in the modern metropolis. And by doing that to create a space to learn from these common experiences that often are not experienced as such while we work away in different parts of the city.