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Almost NothingObservations on precarious practices in contemporary art$
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Anna Dezeuze

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780719088575

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719088575.001.0001

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‘Good-for-nothing’

‘Good-for-nothing’

Chapter:
(p.118) 3 ‘Good-for-nothing’
Source:
Almost Nothing
Author(s):

Anna Dezeuze

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7228/manchester/9780719088575.003.0004

Introduced by the ‘junk’ and beat aesthetics in the late 1950s, the figure of the dropout or slacker served as a counter-cultural model for artists concerned with precariousness, and took on various forms later in that decade. Celebrating leisure and laziness as a challenge to the capitalist work ethic, artists such as Tom Marioni, as well as groups such as Fluxus or ‘funk’ artists on the West Coast, appeared as concerned with their daily experiences as with creating any specific artwork, thus pursuing an ‘art of living’, as Fluxus artist Robert Filliou called it. Other artists in the 1960s questioned the value of work by developing what Allan Kaprow called ‘useless work’ — types of labour that involve effort, but yield no lasting product or outcome. While such ‘good-for-nothing’ figures pursued the Zen ideal of wu-shih or ‘nothing special’ that had inspired both junk practices and ‘borderline’ art in the early 1960s, other artists looked for inspiration to the ‘adversity’ of some of the poorest members of society (in the case of Hélio Oiticica).

Keywords:   Everyday, Zen Buddhism, Leisure, Work, Labour, Shantytowns

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