Phase 3: The Complaining Body (2015-16)

The work with cultural workers and the complaints team in 2014 led us to want to pursue the specific issue of complaining bodies – investigating the physical and emotional effects of complaining, receiving complaints and not being able to complain.

Phase 3 (2015-16) continued with a more specific investigation with a call centre in a London borough council, commuters in Worcester and staff dealing with student complaints in Preston. These workshops also provided the backdrop to three new commissions (artist Sarah Browne, choreographer Hamish MacPherson and writer Ivor Southwood) aided by funding from Arts Council England and The Elephant Trust.

The results were presented at the Manual Labours: The Complaining Body exhibitions at the Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck University of the Arts, The Showroom and Movement in Worcester in 2016 and in Manual Labours Manual #3.

We found that the emotional labour involved in listening to and managing complaints; the social and cultural conditions of complaining and the effect of not complaining all have repercussions on the body as a site of resistance, absorption and expulsion. The research found that normative discourses of the good, healthy, productive body are often disrupted by the complaining body.