The Terror of Total Dasein, Economies of Presence in the Art Field


An essay by Hito Steyerl

“The International Artists’ Strike in 1979 was a “protest against the ongoing repression of the art system and the alienation of artists from the results of their work.” Djordjevic mailed invitations to numerous artists around the world, asking if they would be willing to take part in the general strike. He received thirty-nine, mainly unsupportive responses from the likes of Sol Lewitt, Lucy Lippard, and Vito Acconci. Susan Hiller replied: “I have, in fact, been on strike all summer, but it has not changed anything and I am anxious to begin work again, which I shall do very soon.” 1

“Dear Goran, Thanks for your letter. Personally I am already on strike of producing any new form in my work since 1965 (i.e. 14 years). I don’t see what I could do more – Best Regards (Daniel) Buren.”2

When legendary conceptual artist Goran Djordjevic tried to rally artists to go on a general art strike in 1979, some of them responded that they were on strike already – i.e. did not produce work or new work. But it made no difference whatsoever. Clearly, at this time this seems to have confounded received ideas of what a strike was and how it worked. A strike was supposed to drain needed labour power from employers, who would then need to make concessions to workers demands. But in the art field things were different.


The Terror of Total Dasein, Economies of Presence in the Art Field, Hito Steyerl
DIS Magazine
Link to the full essay