Work and Utopia
Performance maker and culture worker Xavier de Sousa met with Professor Gerard Hanlon as part of a new public research programme from Something to Aim For, who work at the intersection of the arts, learning, health, and wellbeing sectors to provide advocacy and capacity building for artists at the margins of mainstream culture, the creative industries, and wider society.
Xavier de Sousa (he/they) is an independent performance maker and culture worker based between Brighton and Lisbon whose practice explores personal and political heritage within the context of discourse on belonging and migration. Through theatrical, durational performance and moving image, he explores the dichotomies between the live experience and agency in the performance space, as well as written text and queer methodologies of performance and research.
Xavier is currently developing a trilogy of works about belonging and power structures, kickstarted with his first theatre show, POST (touring). He is currently developing a new durational theatre show, REGNANT, to premiere in 2021.
Alongside his performance work, Xavier curates the digital series queeringborders, live programme performingbordersLIVE and New Queers on the Block, Marlborough Productions’ Artist and Community Development programme.
Previously, he has collaborated with Tim Etchels, Rosana Cade, The Famous Lauren Barri-Holstein, and presented work with Ovalhouse Theatre, HOME, East Street Arts, Latitude Festival, Tate Modern, METAL Culture, Southbank Centre, The Yard Theatre (UK), Warehouse9 (DK), CITEMOR Festival, Teatro do Bairro Alto (Portugal), Operastate Festival (Italy), Onassis Culture Centre (Athens), IIT Gujarat (India), Kalamata Dance Festival (Greece), Más Allá Del Muro Festival (Mexico), amongst others.
Xavier is a member of the BECTU union and the Independent Theatre Council
Gerard Hanlon’s research interests include social theory, the nature of market societies, corporate social responsibility, the relationship between the state and the market, political economy, the work of the middle class, professional organisations, and industrial sociology. These interests coalesce around the contested goals of organisations, how labour is mobilised to achieve these, the reasons why, and the ways within which, these goals are reconfigured. Such processes take place within a broader societal environment that, under capitalism, is structured by the shifting relationship between state and market.
He completed a major examination of the origins of management knowledge and its links to the authoritarianism, violence, and anti-democratic response to what the neo-liberal thinker Wilhelm Röepke called, the ‘Social Crisis of Our Time’. This work was published by Routledge (2015) under the title The Dark Side of Management – The Secret History of Management Theory.
His most recent work examines the role of the military in the foundation of modern production and organisational forms starting with the Dutch, British, and US militaries in the period of commercial capitalism.
His work has appeared in leading journals such as Academy of Management Review, Human Relations, Sociology, Modern Law Review, Accounting Organisations and Society, amongst others. He is currently working on a research monograph on the management of the division of labour.
I speak not only of the excellence and exceptionality of the artwork but also of our ability as cultural workers to produce and make work in the context of neoliberal and capitalistic structures.
defining utopia and risk within the context of arts and cultural work
on the artist as the ideal worker
I reject productivity as a positive notion, and I also accept the productivism in Marx... my interest in is the artist as the ideal worker. Within management theory, there is a strong turn to intrinsic rewards - the artist is the person who is supposed to gain more intrinsic rewards than any other occupation... the ideal type of the self-exploitative artist who discovered the "eureka" moment [unaffected by] precarity or pay.
on capital growth, management and inequality for artists and cultural workers
By removing the bedrock of sustainability that you might have [within arts funding and evaluation procedures], is it a way of servicing dissent?
on enforcing power and inequality
"We should eat the hand, for it is a delight – much, much tastier than the boot." Tai Shani, 'Why Art Workers Must Demand the Impossible', https://artreview.com/why-art-workers-must-demand-the-impossible/
The Something to Aim For What Matters To Me series seeks to develop strategies and frameworks for improving health and wellbeing through the arts, built around collaborations between artists, healthcare professionals, institutions, and researchers.
Commissioned by Queen Mary Arts and Culture, the first What Matters To Me events were a series of research presentations, bringing together artists and researchers to discuss the overlapping interests and concerns within their practices. Watch Gerard Hanlon and Xavier de Sousa's full conversation here.