Doubtful about the survey and the general direction of the project beyond 2018, for my last A-N bursary mentoring session, I sat down to talk to Jenny Richards, freelance curator and writer and one half of collective Manual Labours. Manual Labours is a research project exploring physical and emotional relationships to work, initiated by Jenny Richards and Sophie Hope.
I had worked with Jennie and Sophie on their latest project Building as body, a project developed following their residency at Nottingham Contemporary where they worked with staff to explore the architecture of the workplace. Manual Labours has commissioned me and Finbar Prior to design and build a ‘Wandering Womb’ mobile kitchen unit a new mobile kitchen and staff room.
As part of the project, Manual Labours launched a new publication Building as Body: A Handbook for Investigating the Workplace. This book, to me, was a bright example of artist-led research, free of the constraints of academic research. It represents the direction I would like to take with my project. As I felt stuck with the survey I had put together previously, I asked Jenny how I should continue my investigation. ‘Use your artistic licence’ suggested Jenny, and rightly so; the questionnaire I had drafted could be the starting point of a PhD. She suggested to focus on one core question, something as simple as ‘How does it feel to be an art technician?’
My conversation with Jenny was liberating. I look forward to building on the work I had done this year and I plan for the future with enthusiasm. I will be organising my own meetups, outside of London. I will use a simplified version of my questionnaire – maybe one question from each section? – to do quick 15-minute interviews with other art technicians. I will continue to travel to meet more people in places I hadn’t been able to visit yet; Bristol, Glasgow.
I will continue posting about developments in the project in a new blog. Watch this space for news in 2019!