The discussion I will make around the term “la perruque” is about the management of labour and working hours in the cultural institution, particularly how these notions can be organised in a collaborative way. I borrow the term la perruque from Michel de Certeau’s “The Practice of Everyday Life” (Certeau, 1988) in which he scrutinizes social representation and modes of social behavior.
In French La Perruque literally means the wig and Certeau uses this term to describe “workers own work disguised as work for his employer”. He explores this concept of the wig as “It differs from pilfering in that nothing of material value is stolen. It differs from absenteeism in that the worker is officially on the job. La perruque may be as simple a matter as a secretary’s writing a love letter on “company time” or as complex as a cabinetmaker’s “borrowing” a lathe to make a piece of furniture for his living room.” (Certeau, 1988, p.25) By applying Certeau’s critical remark as a basis for this presentation, I will take on an institutional investigation that searches for ways in which the cultural institution can be more open, solidarity oriented as well as generous. I will tackle this term with the purpose of going beyond the institution's hierarchical or individualistic regulations about labour time, specifically through the reorganization of working hours, commitments, availabilities, seclusions, absences as well as preoccupations.
The reorganization, I have in mind, concerns the diversion of time; appropriated by cultural institutions, to a seemingly more collaborative and communal direction. For Certeau, the diversion of time from work means free and creative labour that is not directed toward a financial profit. It can also be seen as an act of solidarity with others, such as friends, family or co-workers. Certeau deploys the term in two ways: First, he presents la perruque as a tactic, meaning that it can be a form of engagement in which the “weak makes use of the strong”. Different from a strategy, it is a form of action aiming at “escaping without leaving”. In essence, it is a practice of “anti-discipline,” a tactic that aims at a fair recomposition of the notion of time which is usually evaluated negatively by employers as it also becomes a challenge for employees. Secondly, he makes use of the term to identify his own practice; his work on the everyday tactics, in spite of scientific research that focuses on the existing order of knowledge is given context as an example of la perruque as he acts within a context of a scientific institution and uses tools and resources provided by this institution.
More contemporary uses of the term operationalizes the term la perruque as a work avoidance strategy. From a management perspective, this strategy is perceived as mischief, deception and a practice that needs to be strictly surveilled and prevented by the employer. (Borkovich et al. 2016) “Frequent systemic use of both company and personal mobile electronic devices, (Smartphones, PDAs, Tablets, Laptops, Hot Spots, etc.) prolific transmissions of emails, texts, web surfing for shopping, news, sports scores, games, homework research, and keeping tabs on children and family members. Personal calls made to family members, friends, personal business associates, job interviews, doctor and car appointments. Paying e-bills online or with paper checks; E-Commerce shopping, Multi-tasking between business vs. personal actions on two or more identical or similar mobile devices” are just some of the examples listed in this category of avoidance strategy. (Borkovich et al., 2016, p.181) It is also stated in the studies that what makes la perruque so widespread is the fact that “bosses and supervisors were overtly seen and heard to use digital work devices for personal business, the employees felt free to do the same”. (Borkovich et al., 2016, p.181)
From this point of view, I will dwell on the organisation of labour time at a cultural institution. The organisation of labor time at a cultural institution is a complex phenomenon. It is not only a matter of negotiation and contestation between staff and administration but also an ongoing area of bargaining between the cultural institution itself and the artists, authors, designers, researchers, visitors, students, users shortly the public in general who collaborate with the institution as well as “work” in the institution. Constituents, as we define them, are not only shaping the institution through their use of the physical space and, their contributions and criticisms regarding the institution’s content but also through their requests, applications, requirements and claims impact the organisation’s sense of labor and its working hours. Researching, collecting, learning, interpreting, designing and exhibiting with the constituents are blurred zones in which the ownership of time and work becomes unclear. The time spent for “cultural work” cannot be easily associated with an individuals’ or groups’ exclusive benefits.
A recent example can be SALT’s collaboration with the artist duo Cooking Sections (Alon Schwabe and Daniel Fernandez) from London. For an upcoming L’internationale exhibition, we have been working together for more than two years on a comprehensive research project dealing with eating habits under the circumstances caused by human induced climate change. The research focuses on the local scenery in Turkey and aims to develop new ways to collaborate with local producers, researchers, activists and experts. Due to the language barrier and their familiarity with local networks, such a project has necessitated the research done to a large extent by SALT’s staff. The labour time of the institution’s staff has been devoted to this project. The artists in turn have also actively contributed to the managerial aspects of the project which would normally be the institution’s responsibility. As research progressed, a third aspect became more obvious: Working with producers and other researchers proved to be beneficial mainly for them since the research involved different manners of campaigning for local products and matching the information collected by the institutions’ researchers with the other research projects.
My proposal here is that interestingly this obscure way of working together creates productive and solidaristic work. A cultural institution can be more open when constituents occupy the working hours for their benefits. In doing so, the institutional work itself becomes the work of others, such as doing the research for an artist, working on organising campaigns for local products or trying to to extract information from an archive for other researches . When la perruque becomes institutionalized, the resources - intellectual, financial, organisational and physical - owned by the institution can become more open, generous to others and be governed in a communal manner.