On June 5th, Occupy Museums hosted an open discussion with workers at the BB7 to look at the 3 Million Euro budget and how money was allocated and spent. Over 40 people showed up, 10-15 of which were Occupiers.
The meeting opened with a game where we asked people to stand up if the following questions applied to them:
- Are you a temporary worker? Part-time, Full-time?
- Are you a permanent worker? Part-time, Full Time?
- Do you have more than one job?
- How many people are artists?
- How many people are financially supporting someone else (child, parent, friend, etc)?
We then moved to open discussion. To ensure anonymity (we were not certain if people would feel comfortable speaking in front of employers) we asked participants to write questions they had about the budget on a piece of paper. We read some of these questions aloud and opened stack to discuss them.
Almost immediately the guides spoke up and asked why they only make $6.50 Euros an hour. They also asked why they haven’t been given catalogs or an overview of the art in the Bienniale when they are responsible for explaining the work to the visitors.
The director of the KunstWerk did not attend the meeting (although she said would) because of a dentist appointment. Therefore many of the questions around who decides how money is allocated could not be answered. Many people said that questions around the budget are very complex, and that it is difficult to understand.
There was a call for a meeting to have the director of the KW explain the budget to us so that we could begin to understand the resources available to BB7.
Additionally, the concept of labor also came up, and the difference between hourly pay and salary pay. We learned that Joanna Warsza makes 1400 Euros per month as assistant curator, and Artur Zmijewski makes 3000 Euros per month. Joanna stated that the guides probably make more money than her per hour because she works all the time. She also acknowledged that there are other forms of compensation that she receives, such as a free apartment, and cultural capital. Artur said very little.
There was also a call for the presence of the Occupiers to be seen as labor, as they are “animals in a spectator zoo.” The occupiers also commented on the bad quality of food in the kitchen, and the use of one shower to share with over twenty people sleeping in the space.
There was also a proposal for a kind of social experiment where we tally all the money everyone is receiving at the BB7 and divide it equally amongst one another. There was an amendment to that proposal where we first do a workshop where we breakdown what that looks like, and take everyone’s person situation into account.
At the end of the meeting, we decided that a follow up meeting with the Director of the KW would be arranged. As members of Occupy Museums we discussed the necessity that we should not lead this meeting, that the guides and staff should decide the structure and facilitate it. Natasha is offering facilitation training OWS style, for anyone who might want it!
The entire meeting lasted until about 12:45, and the Bienniale was scheduled to open at 12. Because of this, the exhibition opened late, and without guides for that period of time.
During the course of the day, many guides approached members of Occupy Museums (including myself) with positive feedback, and excitement about the meeting. There is a desire to act, and change the situation they are in!