Michael Mandiberg’s Live Study is a performance that investigates creative labor. A live video stream from Mandiberg’s studio shows the artist painting portraits of the fifty-six people who have worked for them over the last fifteen years. Each canvas is sized according to the total hours worked by the person at one square inch per hour, making visible the usually hidden labor of studio assistants and interns in the art world. The sizes of the canvases range from a 4 × 5 inch miniature of a technical consultant to a 4 × 5 foot portrait of a long-term assistant. The background of each painting is a 1 × 1 grid of semi-transparent glazes of all the colors used in that painting. The grid both calls attention to the hours of labor represented by the scale of the painting and also references digital pixelation, the Photoshop transparency grid, and the conventions of Minimalist painting. Each portrait will be painted twice: one will enter the art market, priced at the total wages paid to the subject by Mandiberg, and the other will be given to the subject. As a durational performance lasting more than 1,000 hours, Live Study memorializes the time and energy given to Mandiberg by the portraits’ subjects.
Live Study was commissioned specifically for Artport by the Whitney. Artport is the Whitney Museum’s portal to Internet art and an online gallery space for commissions of net art and new media art. Originally launched in 2001, Artport provides access to original art works commissioned specifically for Artport by the Whitney, documentation of net art and new media art exhibitions at the Whitney, and new media art in the Museum’s collection.