Temporary Services is Brett Bloom and Marc Fischer. We are based in Ft. Wayne (IN) and Chicago. Salem Collo-Julin worked with us from 2001-2014. We have existed, with several changes in membership and structure, since 1998. We produce exhibitions, events, projects, and publications. The distinction between art practice and other creative human endeavors is irrelevant to us.
The best way of testing our ideas has been to do them without waiting for permission or invitation. We invent infrastructure or borrow it when necessary. We were not taught this in school. We try different approaches, inspired by others equally frustrated by the systems they inherited, who created their own methods for getting work into the public.
Temporary Services started as an experimental exhibition space in a working class neighborhood of Chicago. Our name directly reflects the desire to provide art as a service to others. It is a way for us to pay attention to the social context in which art is produced and received. Having “Temporary Services” displayed on our window helped us to blend in with the cheap restaurants, dollar stores, currency exchanges, and temporary employment agencies on our street. We were not immediately recognizable as an art space. This was partly to stave off the stereotypical role we might have played in the gentrification of our neighborhood. We weren’t interested in making art for sale. Within the boundaries of “what sells” artists often carve out tiny aesthetic niches to protect, peddle, and repeat indefinitely, rather than opening themselves up to new possibilities.
Experiencing art in the places we inhabit on a daily basis remains a critical concern for us. It helps us move art from a privileged experience to one more directly related to how we live our lives. A variety of people should decide how art is seen and interpreted, rather than continuing to strictly rely on those in power. We move in and out of officially sanctioned spaces for art, keeping one foot in the underground the other in the institution. Staying too long in one or the other isn’t healthy. We are interested in art that takes engaging and empowering forms. We collaborate amongst ourselves and with others, even though this may destabilize how people understand our work.
Much of the art world is structured to favor competition. Grants are competitive. Students compete for funding. Hundreds compete for a single teaching position. Artists compete with artists – stealing ideas instead of sharing them, or using copyright laws to prohibit thoughtful re-use. Artists compete for shows in a limited number of exhibition spaces instead of finding their own ways to exhibit outside of these venues. Artists conceal opportunities from their friends as a way of getting an edge up in this speculative capital-driven frenzy. Gallerists compete with other gallerists and curators compete with curators. Artists who sell their work compete for the attention of a limited number of collectors. Collectors compete with other collectors to acquire the work of artists.
Temporary Services seeks to create and participate in ethical relationships that are not competitive and are mutually beneficial. We develop strategies for harnessing the ideas and energies of people who may have never participated in an art project before, or who may feel excluded from the art community. We mobilize the generosity of many people to produce projects on a scale that none of us could achieve in isolation. We strive towards aesthetic experiences built upon trust and unlimited experimentation.
GROUP WORK & WORKING WITH OTHERS
Working together in a group gives us both the ability to do multiple projects at once and the flexibility to use each other’s experiences to our collective advantage. We like collaboration because of the inherent challenges and incredible possibilities that come from working with others. We utilize each other’s skill sets and trust in each other’s ideas because we have worked together for so long.
We are dedicated to finding ways of working together while still maintaining our own individual voices. A group is only healthy when the individuals are healthy. The reverse is equally true. Each of our viewpoints has room to breathe without the necessities of group speak. We do write together, and often speak in public together, but we don’t feel the need to dress or think alike. We sometimes work outside of the group and bring those experiences back to Temporary Services. Learning and working together, and with others, enriches each of our lives.
There has been a noted rise in the number of people making work in groups in the past decade. We document some of this activity at www.groupsandspaces.net, initiated as a research tool and to make groups more visible to one another. We took advantage of an offer from a sympathetic building owner and worked with like-minded practitioners to co-found Mess Hall, a keyholder-run, experimental cultural center in Chicago. The space operated from 2003-2013.
BUILDING LONG-TERM INFRASTRUCTURE TO SUPPORT SIMILAR WAYS OF WORKING
We represent ourselves and maintain the greatest degree of control over our work. When we get opportunities, we often try to extend them to others – particularly those who might not get the same chances we’ve gotten, perhaps because they are more difficult to communicate with, don’t adhere to conventional social graces, or are severely marginalized.
We are starting to contend with the complexities of having a more autonomous sustainable practice. We’re aided by lectures, workshops, honorariums and the occasional grant or award, but there isn’t nearly enough for three people to live on.
The forms our work takes rarely generate sellable objects, and when they do, the results are hard to distribute. Many other artists are in the same boat. We are creating an online store to better circulate our own published work and to begin highlighting and distributing the work of our peers. We will more actively publish books by people we admire by launching a new press. None of this will create a financial windfall but the history of our practice has been to work and experiment at our own pace, with people we care about on terms we can live with.