Phase 2: Complaining and Criticality (2014)

Our second phase of the research in 2014 led us to work with two different types of workers – freelance cultural workers and people working in the complaints department of a local authority. The workshops with cultural workers were organised in Melbourne (while Sophie was on a residency there) and Stockholm (while Jenny was working/studying). The workshops in the London local authority were organised together with the Widening Access team at Birkbeck and Higher Education Innovation Funding.

The workshops with these groups led us to focus on the ways they carry or hold their work in their bodies. This led us to reflect on the relationships between complaining and criticality as sites of knowledge production in these different sectors. We were devising workshop methods to find ways to share these experiences using body mirroring exercised, translating physical and emotional states onto body maps and developing forensic accounts of the ways different tasks were experienced.

The resulting Manual Labours Manual #2 questioned the possibility that the labour of giving, receiving, processing and analysing complaints is not so dissimilar to that of the work of the cultural worker. We found there to be a learnt bodily performance in the enactment of acknowledgement, sympathy and care.