Manual Labours: The Complaining Body

6 Feb 2016 – 3 Mar 2016

Peltz Gallery

London, United Kingdom

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Join us at The Peltz Gallery for the first presentation of research from Manual Labours: The Complaining Body and the launch of our third publication Manual Labours Manual #3.


Manual Labours: The Complaining Body is a one month exhibition at the Peltz Gallery and presents the process, findings and analysis of an 18 month long investigation into the physical and emotional affects of complaining, receiving complaints and not being able to complain in the context of work. Our research has involved a series of workshops with call centre workers in a London Borough Council, commuters on a train station platform in Worcester and staff dealing with student complaints in a UK University. The exhibition presents our practice-based methodologies and offers a moment for new contributors to engage and discuss the findings, drawing on what complaints we share and can collectivise around.  

Manual Labours: The Complaining Body asks: what are the physical impacts on the body when complaining, receiving complaints and when you feel unable to complain?  The emotional labour involved in listening to and managing complaints; the social and cultural conditions of complaining and the affect of not complaining all have repercussions on the body as a site of resistance, absorption and expulsion. The research explores the normative discourses of the good, healthy, productive body which are disrupted by the complaining body.  The uncomplaining body is often in fact a sick body, having to perform a healthy body and happy self by internalising and stifling our complaints.  The exhibition reflects on stories of how and why the complaining body is performed, silenced and internalised.

Manual Labours: The Complaining Body is developed with the artist Sarah Browne, choreographer Hamish MacPhersonand writer Ivor Southwood who have produced three new commissions in response to the theme. Strands of their research will be presented at the Peltz Gallery.  Ivor Southwood launches a new essay, The Uncomplaining Bodywhich investigates the culture of a large workplace from the perspective of an outsourced temporary cleaner/porter.  Hamish MacPherson invites you to join him in Breastbeating - a card game simulating an after work session in the pub where the only thing you have to do is complain. And on March 1st a curated screening by Sarah Browne entitled The Revolting Body shares research that has informed her new commission Report to an Academy, concerned with the academic environment as a workplace. The exhibition will also include a specially commissioned feedback form by artist Barry Sykes and a newly designed table to host complaining bodies designed by architects Samson Adjei and Greg Epps.

Manual Labours: The Complaining Body Events

  • Friday 5 February 2016, 6-8pm
    Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck School of Arts, 43 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PD
    Exhibition Launch
    Launch of the exhibition and the new publication Manual Labours Manual #3 alongside Ivor Southwood’s commissioned essay, The Uncomplaining Body. Ivor will introduce his essay and refreshments will be served!
  • Tuesday 1 March 2016: 4-6pm Round Table Workshop
    Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck School of Arts, 43 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PD
    Analysing The Uncomplaining Body
    Join us for an afternoon round-table workshop to collectively analyse some of the research gathered through The Complaining Body project.  The event focuses on the physical implications of the stifling of complaints and how the body responds through the expulsions of matter in the form of diarrhoea, vomiting and crying. We invite you to join us in sharing your experiences and perspectives, helping to construct and imagine what the physical effects of a collective complaint might produce.
  • Tuesday 1 March 2016, 6pm Screening
    Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck School of Arts, 43 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PD
    The Revolting Body, selected by Sarah Browne
    Following the workshop we will screen The Revolting Body a selection of moving image material from diverse sources including artist film and video, amateur collectives and contemporary protest groups, produced over the last forty years.  The ‘body’ alluded to in the programme title might be an individual or a collective body, troubled with imminent eruption.
  • Whistleblowing as Complaining; Blacklisting as Bullying
    Date coming shortly...
    Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck School of Arts, 43 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PD
    This workshop brings together activists and academics to explore cases of speaking out and complaining about working conditions individually and collectively. We will be sharing examples of the personal, mental, physical, material and legal ingredients needed to complain and the impacts and implications. Presentations include Lucy Parker’s current project Blacklist and her research into the experiences of blacklisted workers.
    Full details of the events programme including booking details coming soon!

All events are free. www.manuallabours.co.uk


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