Milijana Babić spent one year and six months changing jobs, exposing herself to different experiences and secretly recording them in image and sound. Her near spy-like records speak of social margins in a “naked”, minimally processed and bitter form. By compensating for blind spots, the art project becomes a channel for specific information and experiences that have no other place in the public debate because they are deprived of official representational forms, left out of or repressed from the focus of public interest. By taking on the first person voice, the artist ensures availability and confidentiality of information and its subjectively charged immediateness. She does not use secondary experiences or statistics, data or secondhand analysis. By exposing herself as manpower, she records experiences on her own skin, uses accessible, minimal tools and adapts herself to unpredictable and uncontrollable conditions. She places her own body in the focus, which then becomes a psychological and muscular seismogram, a social arena of work-related and gender relationships, as well as the medium for expressing the exploitative economic structure.
Visual artist urgently looking for any kind of work is the title of the ad that marks the beginning of the project. With occasional breaks, the ad was published from January 2011 to July 2012 in local ads. The words used suggest two important things: a visual artist needs a job, and the “matter” is urgent. They announce the positioning of art as work, but also a notion of work on the general level, which intertwine during the project. All the jobs Milijana Babić performed, from promoting irons, cleaning offices and residential buildings and the distribution of advertising materials to selling roses at bars and night clubs, waitressing and exhibition guarding, are linked by work as a fact of necessity – as naked survival. These are primarily temporary, low ranking and underpaid jobs that suck the entire life out of a worker, sometimes blurring the situation and other times pointing out very clearly that this was brutal exploitation.
The information that a visual artist is looking for any kind of work was bait for all kinds of offers, but it did not lead to any professional interest. The phrase used in the ad mostly provoked perverted, sexual and macho implications and suspicious offers, while gender and age were omnipresent required qualifications for a job. Accepting failure as a starting point, but also as a possibility of abandoning the status quo, the project discloses the fact that art, albeit a social activity, is not one of the professions accompanied by the reputation of a socially important and generally useful sector deserving of undisputed compensation.
Looking For Work sheds light on how deeply we are entrenched in the risky age of precarity in which an artist shares the same destiny as other unprivileged “subjects”, such as immigrants, the elderly, women and the young in search of their first work experiences. Precarity marks different, unstable existences within neoliberal systems and post-industrial societies in which the empowered employer subjects a broad population to flexible working conditions, without a chance for permanent employment, regular working hours, adequate compensation or workers’ rights. (Ksenija Orel)
Milijana Babić (1974) is a visual artist whose work often enters the field of live art. She lives and works in Rijeka, Croatia. She graduated in sculpture at the Durban Institute of Technology, Durban, Republic of South Africa, 2001, and received her MA at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2007. She is a long-time collaborator with the Academy of Applied Arts in Rijeka, with experience in teaching and development of an EU project. Her work has been presented in numerous exhibitions and festivals in the country and abroad. She has been collaborating continuously with the City of Women Festival since 2003, when her exhibition Nonsense was presented at the Alkatraz Gallery, AKC Metelkova City, in the context of the festival.
Organization: City of Women; In collaboration with: ŠKUC Gallery.
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication [communication] reflects only the views of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
 This series of jobs excludes working in a shop, which represents an exception to the rule, if judging by the treatment of workers and the adequate pay, and it was found through an acquaintance.