press release

Opening: May 12, 7pm

Women at Work is an international group exhibition with an accompanying symposium and an extensive outreach program. It aims to contribute to discussions surrounding the relationship between feminist ideas and the current situation of women in the workforce in an era of globalized economics and quickly changing societies.

In many respects, Women at Work revisits current criticisms of second-wave feminism, which succeeded in achieving several of its goals by changing mainstream attitudes toward cultural understandings of gender equality, but failed to achieve deep transformations within institutions. Hence, the questions remain: What has happened to equal wages, accessible childcare, overturning gender stereotypes, and, even more critically, concern about the living and working conditions of women outside Western societies, a demographic that provides global capital with its cheapest labor force? In the words of Hester Eisenstein, has mainstream Western feminism "been seduced?" In the move toward equal possibilities for employment, have the other emancipatory goals of challenging patriarchal order been forgotten in the meantime?

The exhibition's ambition is to be a timely rumination on important questions of women's emancipation, combining different artistic practices and a variety of approaches.

Après la reprise, la prise by Wendelien van Oldenborgh, which will be adapted to the spatial specifications of the Edith-Russ-Haus, is an installation that weaves together questions of labor, entrepreneurship, and the possibility of lasting solidarity in precarious conditions. The complex slide installation is based on a film project that portrays a group of women who, after having worked for many years on the assembly line at the Levi's factory in Belgium, were fired when the company relocated its production to countries with much lower-waged laborers. After the failure of their demonstration at and negotiations with the factory—with the aim of gaining back not just their jobs but also the social bonds among colleagues that shaped their community—the women found new roles as actresses, by putting forward their experience in a theater production. A discussion about this theater piece between the protagonists and students provides the core of the video piece that was then distilled into Après la reprise, la prise.

Olga Chernysheva's drawings and photographs of different women in Russia, from street sellers to museum guards, capture with immense empathy the precarious nature of being human, and further investigate the survival strategies of citizens in a post-socialist society in the face of living situations that vary from exposure to neglect.

A project by Anette Rose, titled Captured Motion, revolves around artistic and scientific methods of capturing mechanical and human body movements visually, acoustically, and haptically, with a special focus on weaving technologies as a historically female occupation. The series of video works and animations investigates the industrial automation that increasingly characterizes our working environments. The human seems to have disappeared entirely from today's automated manufacturing processes, but Rose examines the enduring presence of human hands by smuggling their movement back into understandings of the machine.

Factory Complex is an experimental documentary by Im Heung-soon that reveals the protagonists behind the fast economic development of South Korea: cheap female workers. The film draws a parallel between the female textile workers movement of the 1960s and the increasingly exploitative nature of female employment today, drawing on the personal accounts and voices of care workers, flight attendants, cashiers, and casually employed workers.

Women at Work engages with classical feminist ideas of collaboration, solidarity, and equality during times of "seduced" and commercialized feminisms and is accompanied by a one-day symposium curated by Claudia Reiche under the title "Burnout Feminism? (Post-)feminism and capitalist embodiments."

"Poor concentration and reduced performance indicate a condition which is often described as 'burnout,' an emotional exhaustion of motivated but permanently overloaded workers…The comparison of feminism's status with burnout syndrome gains additional relevance when external opposition to feminism corresponds to an internal review that asks, in particular, whether Western (post-)feminism missed the way, namely by its false, neoliberal implementation."

Claudia Reiche