Adriana Monti’s film Scuola Senza Fine [School Without End] is an exploration of a group of women who were part of the important Italian workers’ study movement, 150 Hours. The 150 Hours was the name of a contract that meant workers were entitled to 150 hours devoted to studying on ‘company time’. It was an agreement won by Italian car and steel workers in 1973. The 150 Hours model quickly moved to other industrial sectors, as well as farming, and was later extended to include housewives and the unemployed.
Central to the 150 Hours was that study should be non-vocational, meaning it was not intended to improve productivity at work: rather, it was intended to be paid time to discuss working conditions and feed personal and collective growth. The 150 Hours courses were influenced by the work of Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Friere and so were focussed on the reflection of lived experience through oral history, discussion and writing. This was grounded in a critical enquiry into the question of whose knowledge, and what forms of knowledge, are valued in society. Traditionally not part of the factory unions, the significance of the 150 Hours coming to include unpaid women in the home was a radical recognition of cleaning, cooking and caring as work. These women, living outside of urban centres and previously pushed behind the figure of the male worker, like ghosts of the workers’ movement, materialised through 150 Hours and fed their experiences and voices into the growing feminist struggle.
Scuola Senza Fine produces a polyphonic expression of collective experience, where the individual is entwined within the collective, felt vividly during the shared intimacy of eating together during the study sessions. The chance to view this film today at Mint, ABF Huset, built for workers’ education and collectivity, offers a reflection on the history of workers’ struggle. The 150 hours sits in contrast to the image of the worker presented in the painting fixed on the wall in the same room. It also diverges from the contemporary workplace’s offer of individualised care of workers on the job, through discount gym memberships, for example, or a course in mindfulness to deal with stressful working conditions. Such contemporary approaches seek ‘not to change industrialized socio-political structures and environments, but to enable individuals to relate differently to these contexts.’ What strategies are there that build space and time to question what it means to define and refuse the alienating affects of work today?
As part of the ongoing film series FALLOUT / falling out, organised by the artist Sarah Browne and the curator Jenny Richards. Scuola Senza Fine is distributed by Cinenova. Cinenova is a volunteer-run charity preserving and distributing the work of feminist film and video makers.