The programme looks variously and sceptically at the current conditions and aesthetics of work. By screening a series of films that cast an eye at the minutiae of labour, an audience might have the opportunity to reflect upon their own positions within the work / non-work nexus. Whether it be ‘occasional labour in the cultural industry’, the less salacious daily grind in the city, the unpaid labour which accounts for half this country’s wealth, or the indispensable provision of an overqualified labour surplus. Featuring artist’s films, activist documentary, gems from the history of sociology, the screening seeks to get under the skin of the habitual, the commonplace, of what goes by the name of ‘the general interest’. The event assumes its place within Outsourcing as not just another chain in a producing machine, another opportunity to consider the shifting roles of culture – makers, but a situation which begs the question: ‘for whom do we work?’.
Mierle Laderman Ukeles Sanman’s Place 28mins. 1980
World of Art; works in Progress 28mins. 1986 In 1969, “frazzled and dazzled” by the requirements of surviving as an artist while being a new mother, Mierle Ukeles wrote The Manifesto for Maintenance Art: ‘Care.’ Starting with personal maintenance, the work broadened to the maintenance of cultural institutions, urban and societal maintenance, and sustaining the earth itself. From 1977-80, the artist interacted with the entire New York City Department of Sanitation in the ground-breaking Touch Sanitation Performance.
Year Zero The Occupation 26mins. 2001
Regeneration and gentrification in the East End – a shuffled argument in film fragments and diagrams. Plot your place in the social cleansing of a city; join in the consultations; include yourself out.
Ursula Biemann Performing the Border 45 min. 1999
A video essay set in the Mexican-US border town Ciudad Juarez, where the U.S. industries assemble their electronic and digital equipment, located right across from El Paso, Texas. Performing the Border looks at the border as both a discursive and a material space constituted through the performance and management of gender relations. The video discusses the sexualization of the border region through labour division, prostitution, the expression of female desires in the entertainment industry, and sexual violence in the public sphere. Interviews, scripted voice over, quoted text on the screen, scenes and sounds recorded on site, as well as found footage are combined to give an insight into the gendered conditions inscribed in the border region
Humphrey Jennings Spare Time 18 mins. 1939
Although made for the GPO, Spare Time was in fact a Mass Observation film about the ways in which people in the industrial areas of Britain spend their free time. Its very title suggests how removed Jennings was from the dominant philosophy of Griersonian documentary because this film does not glorify the dignity of labour but shows instead the working classes producing their own culture. There is an expressive use of sounds and music and a surreal quality about the landscape which prefigures much
Black Audio Film Collective Handsworth Songs, 58 min.1986
Black Audio Film Collective was one of the film and video workshop collectives set up in the 1980s in the aftermath of inner city protests against British institutional racism. As part of a movement for greater cultural and political representation for and by black people in Britain, it can be seen as part of the ongoing process of Britain’s post-colonial history. Directed by John Akomfrah, Handsworth Songs was Black Audio Film Collective’s most controversial work.