MANUAL LABOURS, The Peltz Room, Birkbeck, London (8-12 April, 2013)

This was the first public Manual Labours’ event. We used the Peltz Gallery at Birkbeck as our office, staffroom, canteen, library, film-screening space and meeting place for one week.

We developed a film archive including works by: Moira Zoitl’s ‘Exchange Square’ (2007); Can Altay’s ‘We’re Papermen, He said’ (2003) and Kennedy Browne’s ‘How Capital Moves’ (2010).

We hosted a public screening of Pilvi Takala’s The Trainee followed by a discussion with writer Marina Vishmidt and  a ‘reclaim the lunch hour’ event with lunch and screening of ‘Sweet Sugar Rage,’ (1985) by the Sistren Theatre Collective and Jesse Jones’ ‘The Struggle Against Ourselves,’ (2012).

Each day we focused on one worker stereotype, discussed a reading, watched a film and interviewed a co-worker about their physical relationship to work.

MONDAY 8 APRIL: ST. MONDAY The office was closed as Jenny and Sophie worshiped St Monday by having a lazy day.

TUESDAY 9 APRIL: THE MANAGER Tuesday started with a slow commute to work as Jenny and Sophie trekked across marshes and motorways to reach the office. They document their walk, the physical and emotional affects and analysed whether the walk was worth it.

WEDNESDAY 10 APRIL : THE TRAINEE Reading: The Great Caliban: The struggle against the rebel body by Sylvia Federici (2004) and Pilvi Takala The Trainee – Screening and Discussion with Marina Vishmidt at Birkbeck Cinema, 43 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PD

Marina Vishmidt presented a paper on Pilvi Takala’s performance and film The Trainee (2008) drawing on her research into how art models anomalous labour conditions in the period of financialised capitalism.  She explored how strategies such as performativity, intimacy and refusal traverse contemporary forms of labour and art. The competitive ideology of abstract value standardises the conditions for both, getting them to mingle and blur in a kind of abstract activity typical of financial commodities.

Marina Vishmidt is a London-based writer who deals mainly with art, value and the politics of work and abstraction. A former Research Fellow at the Jan van Eyck Academie, she has an MA in Modern European Philosophy and is currently doing a PhD at Queen Mary, University of London on speculation as a mode of production in art and capital.

Pilvi Takala’s The Trainee was produced in a collaboration with Deloitte and Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, and involved the artist working for a month as trainee “Johanna Takala” in the marketing department of Deloitte.  Takala studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki and was resident at the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam.

THURSDAY 11 APRIL: THE OUTSOURCED We invited co-workers for after work drinks to discuss why/how work seeps into our social lives and vice versa.

FRIDAY 12 APRIL: THE ADMINISTRATOR During the final day we invited our co-workers to a Public Lunch Hour (1-2pm) in Peltz Gallery where we ate together and discussed the week’s research – culminating with a discussion around ideas of ‘physical intellect’ and the different ways we can map and question our physical relationships to work and a screening of Sweet Sugar Rage by the Sistren Theatre Collective (1985).