‘The Complaining Body’ by Manual Labours

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‘The Complaining Body’ was the second stage of a practice based research project Manual Labours initiated by Sophie Hope and Jenny Richards exploring people’s physical relationships to work. This project reconsidered current time-based structures of work (when does work start and end?) and reasserted the significance of the physical (manual) aspect of immaterial, affective and emotional labour. The Complaining Body was a 14 month programme that developed from a series of workshops with workers about how the body is neglected, often left at the door as sedentary, computer based working commences.

Alongside the work of Hope and Richards, three new commissions responded to this theme developed by visual artist Sarah Browne, choreographer Hamish MacPherson and writer Ivor Southwood. As a study into the complaining body, through performance, text and exhibition, the commissions considered what forms of collectivity, understanding and resistance a physical interrogation into our workplace challenges might mobilise. A concurrent series of film clubs and reading groups led by a collection of artists, researchers and co-workers offered public spaces for reflecting on how our intimate experiences of working life connect to the global world of work.

Image credits:
Manual Labours with Ivor Southwood talking to station staff about what it feels like to receive complaints (April 2015).
Manual Labours with Hamish MacPherson going on a walk with call centre staff whilst writing letters about things they can’t complain about.

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