Phase 4: Building as Body (2017-18)

Following our focus on the complaining body we were invited to develop some work with staff at Nottingham Contemporary where we became researchers-in residence (Phase 4, 2016-18).

We used the metaphor of the building as a body in order to discuss the working conditions of staff there. This resulted in a co-produced health assessment of the organisation, which was presented to their board of governors with specific suggestions for improvements relating to staff welfare. We created a new mobile staff room/kitchen (co-designed and built by Effy Harle and Finbar Prior – technicians at the gallery supported by funding from Birkbeck/Wellcome Institutional Strategic Support Fund ISSF).

We commissioned two of the invigilators – who are also performance artists – to devise a performance responding to the theme of the building and body and their working conditions as some of the lowest paid and most precarious members of staff in the institution. We scripted a performance giving members of the public an ‘architectural endoscopy’ tour of the bowels the institution.

These research methods were underpinned by feminist architecture, social reproduction and sick building theory. We built collective tools through workshops, performances, presentations and collages to help us explore and investigate how the building functioned, what its ailments might be and how these are having an effect on the people who work in it. During this two-year residency we looked into the ways in which buildings and bodies are fluid ecosystems which affect each other.

The resulting Manual Labours Manual #4 (launched together with the mobile staffroom and kitchen) was designed so that other building-bodies could undergo a process of examination, led by the staff who work within them.