Manual Labours is a research project exploring physical and emotional relationships to work, initiated by Jenny Richards and Sophie Hope. This project reconsiders current time-based structures of work (when does work start and end?) and reasserts the significance of the physical (manual) aspect of immaterial, affective and emotional labour. Manual Labours started in April 2013 with a 35 hour ‘working week’-long investigation into the embodied, sensory, emotional affects of work which included meetings with our co-workers, a 9 mile walk to work, hosting a film screening and eating together during a Public Lunch Hour. This initial stage of the research was documented in the first issue of the Manual Labours Manual.
In Autumn 2013, a series of reading groups were held that explored issues addressed within the manual in different sites of work including an artist studio, a hospital and a bank.
In 2014, a programme of workshops were carried out with a local London council’s complaints team and workshops with cultural workers in Melbourne, Helsinki and Stockholm. The material from these workshops formed the second Manual Labours Manual.
Manual Labours continues in 2015 with an investigation of the ‘complaining body’, working with complaints teams across different sectors to explore in detail the physical and emotional experiences of receiving and managing complaints. These workshops will also provide the backdrop to three new commissions by choreographer, Hamish MacPherson, visual artist Sarah Browne and writer Ivor Southwood. The resulting visual, written and performance pieces will be presented in different constellations at Preston (In Certain Places), Worcester (Movement) and London. A public site-specific Film Club and Reading Group led by special guests running throughout 2015 will bring together a network to develop a greater understanding and critical positioning of complex, overlapping experiences of work-life entwinement, contributing to a timely discourse on the body at work.
Through this project we are interested in exploring the transformation of labour processes through an investigation into the ‘physical’ (in its most expanded sense) relationship to work in order to map complex and overlapping experiences of work/life entwinement. Through our various activities including screenings, exhibitions, discussions, publishing and workshops we are developing an archive of artist film and video and a collection of publications, to help inform ways in which we can recapture a sense of agency within out current positions.