The concluding event of the Now, How? series explores the nexus of the mundane and the transcendent. The event’s title, “Everyday Luxuries”, is derived from the marketing term used to characterise service economy products like manicures and massages as aspirational commodities available to a mass market. Such luxuries quickly become requirements for workers, particularly female workers, as increasing proportions of the service and cultural economy centre on affect and presentation. As Sarah Maslin Nir’s 2015 exposé, “The Price of Nice Nails”1, from the New York Times, demonstrated in relation to nail salons, affordability often simply means the outsourcing of costs, particularly the costs of labour, reducing, in Nir’s case study, a mostly female, immigrant workforce to conditions of near slavery. The externalisation of risk is a well-known concept in economics, but it is a concept that metaphorically connects to many areas of social and cultural life at this moment in history. Individuals often find themselves trapped in a cycle of anxiety and risk that makes the moment of release or solace provided by ephemeral rituals like manicures something closer to necessities rather than luxuries.
Five writers, Aurelia Guo, Caspar Heinemann, Eva Funk, George Titheridge and Phoebe Blatton, will present work at “Everyday Luxuries”. The works will engage the contemporary experience in a number of registers, some comic, some personal, some philosophical, some all at once. The works will not simply aim to articulate the anxieties of contemporary experience, but also the moments of beauty and profundity that find individuals as well. These true “everyday luxuries” may be inscribed with precarity, but this may lend their ecstasies greater intensity. A critical question going forward, in personal, artistic, and political terms, is whether this intensity is part of the price of the radical fragility with which we live. Should it be understood as a bug or a feature?
The evening will conclude with a conceptual work by William Kherbek, a visual art-based pub quiz complete with prizes in which visitors to Decad are encouraged to join. The work will reference the precarious employment form in which Kherbek has participated for 6 years (and counting), but also reproduce the job exactly, ideally engendering the same ritualistic togetherness and conviviality fostered by an actual pub quiz. Forty questions about visual art will be asked in the historic British pub quiz format. Interested participants can reserve table space by RSVPing to Decad, or by indicating their interest on the Facebook invitation. Prizes will be awarded after each of the quiz’s two rounds; teams of up to 6 players welcome. Questions will be read in English.