Manual Labours is a practice-based research project exploring people’s physical relationships to work, initiated by Jenny Richards (independent curator/artist/writer) and Sophie Hope (Department of Film, Media and Cultural Studies, Birkbeck). 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.

Outputs so far have been :

A 35 hour ‘working week’-long investigation in April 2013 in the Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck, 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.

Check out the first Issue of Manual Labours ManualPublication of a manual documenting our findings from this event (published by Cultural Democracy Editions, printed by AND, and launched  on 30 October at X Marks the Bökship).

Three public site-specific reading groups :

  • 16 October 2013 | ‘The body and clocking-off’ with artist/researcher Broderick Chow in an artists’ studio at Cubitt
  • 6 November 2013 | ‘The body and working environment’ with artist/researcher Claudia Firth and psychologist Amy Harrison in the UCH Macmillan Cancer Centre
  • 27 November 2013 | ‘The body and bad management’ with researcher/philosopher Josefine Wikström and performing arts researcher Claire Warden at HSBC Canary Wharf.
  • Conference papers in Warwick (BSA Work, Employment and Society conference), Loughborough (Making Something for Nothing symposium, RADAR) and London (Generative Constraints, Royal Holloway).
    • A workshop in Melbourne with cultural workers about ‘loving work’
    • Sophie and Jenny are currently preparing a series of workshops with staff at Southwalk Council and University College London Hospital, with further financial support from the widening participation team at Birkbeck.

      The project is predominantly self-funded at present, but has received some valuable support (£450 in total) from the Centre for Media, Culture and Creative Practice for the first stages of the project which has gone towards the food for the public lunch hour in April 2013, payment of reading group discussants and the publication of the first manual labours manual.

      Manual Labours: The Complaining Body is an 18 month project exploring the world of workplace complaints led by Sophie Hope and Jenny Richards with artist Sarah Browne, choreographer Hamish MacPherson and writer Ivor Southwood. The smile which has become the required uniform of workers in coffee shops, classrooms, care homes and call centres hides and stifles our ability to complain and collectivise around our working conditions.

      further reading

      Sophie Hope, ‘Bursting Paradigms : a colour wheel of practice-research,’ Cultural Trends, 25 (2), 2016, 74-86.