Art exhibit to focus on workers

(Jody Waardenburg -- Lead Photographer)

(Jody Waardenburg — Lead Photographer)

The unsung heroes of the working world are the focus of Precarious, an exhibit held in the Robert Langen Art Gallery at Wilfrid Laurier University from March 5-April 12. Precarious, which is a tie in with Greig de Peuter’s communication studies 400-level class “Work and Cultural Industries.” The exhibit and the class both focus on working in the cultural industry as described by Karl Beveridge, one of the artists behind the exhibit, along with his wife Carole Condé. The term ‘precarious work’ is a reference to often part-time work with no job security or benefits and for minimal pay.

“The issue that struck us is that when we would meet with workers often … people would often say ‘why are you doing work about that sort of work?’ meaning we should be doing work on exciting workers like police men or fire fighters. What that tells you is that, in our society, work is not perceived of value or important, it’s just your job and the reason you have a job is so that you can go home and consume,” said Beveridge.

“There’s been a real shift in terms of how workers are seen and are seen as not what you can contribute to society, what you do and what you take pride in.”

Some of the notable works included in Precarious include a series entitled “Work in Progress” which focuses on the role of women in the workforce and the various pressures women have felt or encountered over the decades. As well, a photo essay on the G20 summit held in Toronto in 2010, called “Liberty Lost” emphasizes Condé and Beveridge’s activist past and spirit.

“[‘Liberty Lost’] shows the [activisim aspect] of our work. Yes, it does help with things: it keeps us in touch with the communities that are growing also because we’re in support for the different issues. We go out and be involved in and therefore keep us up to date on who and what and how exactly to portray the issues,” reflected Condé.

While their self-proclaimed activist spirit greatly influences their work and subject manner, the manner in which they reach out to their subject matters, the workers, is unique in that they include the workers in the planning process of the shoot.

“We do visual workshops with the workers themselves. So what they do is not only talk about what their concerns are and what their work is but we ask them to create images on what their work is. So that they actually have a performance type thing so we can map out what the image may be and we ask members from the group to be in the image themselves,” said Beveridge to The Cord.

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