Justice for Domestic Workers

2012 - ongoing

Since spring 2012 The Showroom has been meeting with Justice for Domestic Workers. J4DW was established in March 2009, and is an organisation of migrant domestic workers who work in private houses in the UK.

The various engagements and discussions between J4DW, artists, curators and curatorial projects have sought to address making domestic work visible in British society and the employment of artistic and aesthetic strategies to this end. The aim of this collaboration is to encourage discourse around the social perception of domestic work, the recognition of the domestic sphere as a site of labour, and the aesthetics of this labour.

Since July 2012 several workshops have taken place with both Tate Modern’s Community Programme and at The Showroom, looking at the visibility of domestic work, visual expression and artistic strategies.

The wider context of working in partnership with J4DW, The Showroom and Tate aims to look at affinities between the conditions of cultural workers and domestic workers; affinities can be drawn between the struggle to make artistic labor visible and valued, and the struggle to politicize the site of domestic labor. The collaboration also touches on how the sphere of art can be used to activate awareness and stimulate discussion, touching on questions of art’s usefulness as activism.

Visual expression and aesthetic strategies are key in J4DW’s campaign to make visible domestic work and to politicise the domestic sphere as a site of labour, exchange and power relations. J4DW hold monthly art sessions on the 3rd Sunday of each month, where creative processes such as painting and collage are used to communicate J4DW’s slogans and messages. The members of J4DW come from a variety of backgrounds and languages, and so visual communication is important for the group.

‘We believe that each individual is an artist with a unique kind of creativity and imagination that needs to be brought outside the world of domestic slavery. Additionally, artists and curators can learn from the domestic workers’ organisational strategies and collectivism. Finally, we count on temporary alliances and of course we are aware that we cannot make changes if we do nothing and remain in our respective worlds.’ - Realizza Otarra - Domestic Worker and J4DW Education Project Coordinator

Projects and collaborations with Justice for Domestic Workers include:

As part of the Communal Knowledge programme in 2014 J4DW collaborated with Werker Magazine as part of Werker 10 - Community Darkroom. The project explored different collaborative practices that use photography as a medium to analyse contemporary issues of labour that deal in one way or another with invisibility. Youth and unemployment, domestic work, informal work, migrant work or the refusal of work are some of the subjects Werker 10 explored.

In February 2013 The Showroom invited J4DW and Werker Magazine to collaborate in a Bilderkritik workshop. Werker Magazine is a contextual publication about photography and labour that inquires into the possibility of formulating a contemporary representation of work. Taking its name from the Worker Photographers (1926-39) Werker is currently building an international community of contributors called The Domestic Worker Photographers’ Network.

A public event was then organised on April 21st 2013 at Tate Modern to discuss the ideas and issues so far and included artists, curators, and J4DW members.

As part of Ricardo Basbaum: re-projecting (london) at The Showroom (12 July – 17 August 2013) ASK! and Justice for Domestic Workers staged a new collaborative public action in St John’s Wood. The event invited writer Hakyong Kim, who has been committed to labour movement in Korea, to lead a morning discussion at The Showroom.

In October J4DW collaborated with Ciara Phillips as part of Workshop (2010 – ongoing). This project has since been nominated for the Turner Prize 2014.

J4DW have been involved in several projects at The Showroom including Andrea Francke: Invisible spaces of parenthood exploring the issues surrounding childcare in Britain addressing the experiences and challenges of parenting for artists, cultural workers and other precarious workers.

During the exhibition The Grand Domestic Revolution Goes on at The Showroom J4DW attended a screening by Dutch artist Matthijs de Bruijne who presented his film, I will not ask anything about you, you will not ask anything about me (2011), a collaboration with Domestic Workers in the Netherlands. Additionally J4DW met with ASK! - a group of cultural workers making alliances with (migrant) domestic workers in the Netherlands to research and address conditions and demands of domestic work today. The two groups collaborated on a reverse graffiti campaign in ‘dirty’ areas of The Showroom’s neighbourhood addressing the current campaign for J4DW - a response to events on April 6, 2012 when the UK Government removed the basic rights of migrant domestic workers including the single most important protection - the right to change employer.


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