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The idea of the struggling artist is often presented as a romantic notion, routinely viewed by society as an accepted fixed status of an individual who chooses a career as an artist. This romantic representation of artists is not dissimilar to the expectation of precarious workers in a neoliberal society. The majority of artists are ununionised, willing to work without guarantee of pay and have blurred boundaries between working and non-working hours. They are often flexible, adaptable and creative individuals, whose work is a labour of love that they privilege over monetary rewards. Preserving this notion of artists is useful to the advocates of neoliberalism, as it normalises the role of precarious labour in contemporary society. How then should artists challenge their own positions as precarious workers? How can artists create and make visible alternative possibilities through their art practices? And in what way could this challenge the “taken for granted” position of the precarious worker?

Augustine O’Donoghue’s Artists’ Toolkit was created as an artwork and a practical resource that may help artists question and challenge some of these ideas. The kit contains specially designed timesheet cards for artists (also suitable for art workers) which will allow artists to calculate and provide empirical evidence for the hours worked during a given week, the costs incurred, and wages received. A question and answer comments section on the timesheets allows artists to reflect on financial implications and to suggest actions that might be needed to improve their current situation. The kit also contains a list of resources to support artists as well as essays for consideration.