Will you love her labour?
In Kay Abude’s performance-based exhibit ‘LOVE THY LABOUR’ the co-curators of Projects 2018 at Auckland Art Fair saw the opportunity to explore and reflect on the conditions and current conceptions of paid work. “We felt that Kay’s approach was unusually elegant and powerful,” says Francis McWhannell.
In evolutionary terms, paid work is a relatively recent phenomenon. Once our Stone Age ancestors had ambushed something feathered or furry their work was mostly done. Then the advent of industrialisation created the ‘workforce’ and today, the way we value labour is a hot topic.
Kay relocated from the Philippines in 1986, her parents moving from white to blue collar work. Kay’s mother worked in an electrical factory, supplementing her income by bringing components home that were assembled by members of the family.
“Working was a way we spent time together and socialised,” Kay tells us. “It’s how I developed fine motor skills at an early age and it sparked my interest in the factory and systems of production.”
She tells us she is “interested in the topic of work in relation to an art practice. What kind of work an art practice is and can be.”
Working in installation and performance, she has relied on ‘voluntary labour’, work and assistance being provided by people who usually know zero about contemporary art. “They ask the most basic questions about my artwork,” she says, “which always turn out to be the most important”.
Kay has invited service staff at the Art Fair to wear aprons, pinafores and coats screen-printed ‘LOVE THY LABOUR’. Her garments “allude to the artistry of factory and service workers alike”. And she conforms her solidarity with the workers by participating in the making of the clothing and by working at the fair as a guide. ‘LOVE THY LABOUR’ draws attention to the fact that art-making today is often treated as a labour of love, due to it generally being poorly paid and highly risky.
‘LOVE THY LABOUR’ draws attention to the fact that art-making today is often treated as a labour of love, due to it generally being poorly paid and highly risky.
The Auckland Art Fair Projects, curated by Gabriela Salgado and Francis McWhannell, will include work by 18 emerging and established artists based in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Australia, complementing the selection offered by the 45 galleries also participating in the Art Fair. The result of an open call, the presentation aims to showcase a broad range of art unburdened by a prescriptive theme or curatorial conceit. Comprising installation, jewellery, painting, performance, photography, print, sculpture, sound, video and weaving.
To experience Kay Abude’s ‘LOVE THY LABOUR’ and this amazing collection be sure to visit Auckland Art Fair The Cloud Auckland Waterfront 23-27 May.
Written by Gilly Burnett