“Why would you want to do art about our experience? We’re not important.” It’s a comment we often hear from people. It not only speaks volumes about the nature of working and community life in our society but it also addresses how people see themselves and what the dominant culture has done to that perception. We work with unions and communities as part of a larger collective process to change those perceptions. Our working relationship is based on a collaborative process mediated through the union movement or community group.
Given the present social divisions of labor, our work attempts to bridge two audiences. Working people and those in the arts. We feel that it is not only important to articulate the concerns and experience of working and community life, but that it should also be able to stand up to the sophistication of corporate culture and take into account the complexities of cultural representation.
Initially, we developed a staged fictional format in our images to protect people from being identified by management. However, we soon realized that it allows us to push both the content and form much further. More recently, however, we have also developed a process of visual workshops in which community members collaborate in developing the form of the work and act in the final images.
Working with the union movement and communities has other implications. It begins to address the division of labor between wage work and creative work by demystifying the construction of each and pointing to similar social/economic constraints. It also begins to articulate a cultural politic around the democratization of access to cultural resources.