This issue explores several aspects of art as work. As a collective work of many, often invisible labourers. As a work generally carried out under conditions of great precarity and in which physical risks are often overlooked. As a work which often goes unpaid under the pretext that the practitioners are driven by passion. And indeed, what helps them to continue despite everything is enthusiasm: most artists have chosen their career. On the other hand, poor conditions are a reality, and collective action and struggle is difficult. It is hindered by the often precarious nature of the work and sometimes by the illusion that the finished product, the final “work of art”, erases the material reality of the labour that created it. Now and then, however, a collective momentum joyfully shakes up the order of things – as you will read in this issue.

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Table of contents

Editorial - Banning glyphosate: a matter of democracy

Like asbestos in the latter half of the 20th century, the herbicide glyphosate lies at the heart of debates which can be deciphered only by taking into account its multiple dimensions. From farmers and trade unionists to environmental and health NGOs, many campaign groups are calling for its prohibition. Vietnam and Thailand have already decided to... Find out more

When work affects health from one generation to the next

The use of substances that are harmful to reproductive health (“reprotoxins”) is widespread in European workplaces. EU legislation regulates their impacts on consumers, treating them as akin to carcinogens. But it does not take the same approach when it comes to protecting workers. T h e u s e o f s u b s t a n c e s t h a t a re h a r m f u l t o... Find out more

Fabienne Scandella

How France Télécom broke the law

On 20 December 2019, the Paris Criminal Court delivered a landmark verdict, finding France Télécom and seven of its former senior managers guilty of “institutional moral harassment” in the health and social welfare crisis that hit the company between 2007 and 2010, during which 35 employees committed suicide. This judgment, following an unusual... Find out more

Steven Ronsmans

A global outbreak of silicosis in an unexpected industry

Considered by many a malady of the past, silicosis, a progressive and incurable lung disease, has emerged on a worrying scale amongst workers fabricating and installing artificial stone kitchen and bathroom countertops. Silicosis is caused by the long-term inhalation of fine dust particles known as respirable crystalline silica. Silicosis’s... Find out more

Jade Serrano, Sadak Souici

Life on the streets: meeting Paris’s graffiti artists

Journalist Jade Serrano and photographer Sadak Souici met French “taggers” Swen MC 93, Xare Graff, 2Rode, Hydrane and TresDos, and found out about the risks they face in their work: harmful products, danger on the streets at night, and a sometimes uncertain relationship with the law. Creatives or criminals? Some people regard graffiti taggers as... Find out more

The voice, an instrument that protects the body and soothes the spirit

How far can you be pushed in the name of art? What impact does social media have on singers’ careers? Can you combine a passion for singing with an interest in the sound of other languages? And what about mixing singing with social activism, like being taught to sing by migrants in their native languages? HesaMag joined the migrants who sing in... Find out more

Fanny Kroener, Sadak Souici

The invisible museum workers

Museum and gallery visitors may be too focused on the works of art and items on display to take much notice of the almost invisible work of the reception and warding staff, but without them these exhibits would be inaccessible. HesaMag visited one of the most famous galleries in the world, the Louvre, to meet some of the people who keep it running... Find out more

Angelo Ferracuti

The delicate Italian hands behind the restoration of works of art

In Italy, some 7 000 specialists, most of them women, are involved every day in restoring works of art for paltry wages. Often passionate about their jobs, these specialists make every effort to restore artistic works to their initial state. We are in Rome, in an area close to the Vatican. When I arrive late in the morning at the offices of the A.r... Find out more

The art of managing the intermittent artist status in France

In France, artists working in the live performance, film and audiovisual sectors have a special kind of unemployment insurance scheme: the régime des salariés intermittents du spectacle (scheme for intermittent workers in the performing arts). HesaMag went to meet four artists living in the south of France, each of whom manages his or her career in... Find out more

Herding cats or fighting like lions? Artists and trade union organising

Trade unions have existed in the UK’s arts sector for a long time, and new ones continue to spring up. But what kind of challenges do they face in this rather particular industry? Are artists a class apart when it comes to labour movement activism, or can they find common ground with fellow workers? "If you’re working in the arts, you’re very... Find out more

Lead white: just another licence to kill

In antiquity it was used to manufacture cosmetics for women and make-up for the actors in Greek and Roman tragedies, and for centuries it led the field as the go-to pigment for the making of white paint. With the rise of industry in the 19th century, ceruse – or white lead, the ordinary name for lead carbonate – was manufactured on a grand scale... Find out more

Lesbos: outpost of Fortress Europe

A concise, impactful and essential book. In May 2019, Swiss sociologist Jean Ziegler took a trip to Lesbos in Greece. There he met refugees, political leaders and humanitarian aid operators, as well as Greek and European officials who, on a daily basis, implement what is known in administrative terms as "migratory flow management" and "external... Find out more

Table of contents