August 18 – September 25 2022

The Bluecoat and The Royal Standard, Liverpool

Curated by Simon Willems.

‘Bonehead’ fluorescent yellow figure with cloak and lanyards was shown at the Royal Standard along with the digital animation ‘Circular Holding Pattern (Rain)’ Figure dimensions: 240 x 75cm

‘Phonehead’ birch plywood figure with a lanyard was shown at the Bluecoat. Figure dimensions: 180 x 50cm

The cast concrete coffee cups and SMILE pill packets were placed as interventions within the cafeteria at the University of Liverpool.

Artists: Beagles & Ramsay, Terry Bond, Dreamchord (nil00 & Yank Scally), Pil & Galia Kollectiv, Rachel Garfield, Julika Gittner, Al Hopwood, Sumuyya Khader, Manual Labours (Sophie Hope & Jenny Richards), Chad McCail, Ian Monroe, Simon Willems. 

 Organised in collaboration with the Art of Management & Organisation conference, co-hosted by the Bluecoat and the University of Liverpool, the group exhibition Do They Owe Us A Living? brings together twelve artists and artist collaborations and takes as its point of departure the conference theme ‘art-as-activism’. Each artist was asked by the curator to respond to the theme of activism within the broader context of the conference. 

Featuring a diverse range of practice: from community-focused projects engaging with care in the workplace and council-approved regeneration programmes; through to artworks directed at the histories of prejudice surrounding different communities; as well as work that questions the efficacy of art to function as an act of political resistance in its vulnerability to political co-option; ‘activism’ is proposed less as a given than a complex proposition. 

While the Achilles’ heel of activism lies with its susceptibility to sanitisation under capitalism, and the Achilles’ heel of ‘art-as-activism’, the squaring of aesthetic questions with moral ones, what unites these artists is the way in which they seek to critique life under the market forces of neoliberalism, shedding light on the grassroots of lived experience, in the workplace and beyond, whilst throwing caution to the ‘activist’ tag. 

Inspired by the 1978 song by the punk band Crass, from which it takes its name, Do They Owe Us A Living? sets out to reveal, as exhibition and idea, how any “living“ owed is registered solely with quality of life, as distinct from the ubiquitous culture of cost-benefit analysis and transactional thinking that surrounds us. 

Photo credits: Simon Willems and Beagles & Ramsay