Art Is Labour

Written by Dyami Millarson

My father’s art company/organisation was called Art Is Labour, alternatively Operation X. It fitted into his philosophy that one simply had to work hard to be a good artist. What he was doing, was top sport. He designed hand-made wedding dresses and furniture. This was his art. When Art Is Labour was led by my father, he combined philosophy, art and design, thus rendering him a philosopher-artist-designer. He proved that he could manage being all these things at the same time, and this was what was special about his Art Is Labour.

After years of reflection, I have come to grasp what my father was trying to achieve, and I have begun to see that our paths are crossing each other from different angles. Although I had no lack of artistic intuition, I never really chose to pursue this beyond what I needed for my life goals. My father, however, developed his artistic talent and he achieved insights by doing so. He did certainly believe that practice makes perfect, and that hard work bears fruit.

I believe that art is about production. One may ask whether one’s art is good, but one should perhaps not think so much and simply focus on achieving self-improvement through production. We keep learning throughout our entire lives. There is no defined end to learning. Life is no school, but it requires constant adaptation/evolution. The learning of new skills is itself a product of productivity. When one produces, one acquires skills. Doing is the best way to learn. Whilst language-learning is an art, the best way to learn languages is production. Writing blog articles is one way to produce things in a language, having conversations is another way. Being productive in a language from the very beginning is what helps one to learn the language much faster. The same is true with learning art skills.


    • I like the following Latin saying: Nōn scholae sed vītae discimus. Translation: We do not learn for school, but for life. What I specifically like about this saying is that it equates learning with life. For me, learning endangered languages is a way of life. It’s artistic, philosophical and scientifc – a practical unity between the creative-intuitive, inquisitive-rational and systemic-analytical modes of human thinking.

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  1. For an artist like me, the connections you and your father make are deeply resonant: art, labor, language, learning, and life… interwoven like a Celtic knot. Your blog had already inspired me to take on the study of Scots Gàidhlig, an endangered language. However, I had not visualized this study as a direct extension of my artistic practice until this post. This insight gives me even more enthusiasm for the task!

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  2. Another wonderful post! I love that you have such a great relationship with your dad. I also agree with all of William Cromar comment too. In my region, I would like to help preserve what is left of the Salish-English pidgin trade language known. So much has been lost of the indigenous Salish language itself, but we can find clues about it through the trade language that was developed between the tribes and European settlers.

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  3. Thats an interesting topic. I like to read it.
    May be it depends on the topic and the people, who work with art. Sometimes it’s labor, sometimes it’s work, sometimes it’s fun.


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