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Week 5: Labour

How have artists made us think and feel about labor? Well, artists knows that they are labour themselves and their works is a reflection of that. Ok Kidding.

Labor is a very broad term and one of its synonyms is Employment. However, when we use the word Labor, I feel there is a very negative connotation attached to the word ‘labor’. Don’t make me even start with Hard Labor!

But anyway, labor is one of the favourite topics artist likes to tackle actually because of its relevancy to the current time and it reflect how the economy is doing. For example, I have one local artist on the top of my head when the topic about Labor came in. Jing Quek.  He is a commercial photographer by practice and he also have this series of labourers/workers posing in a very interesting manner below.


As you can see through this series of his, it seems that Jing Quek is actually glorifying these mens and their jobs. Yes, it seems that all these people are holding blue collar jobs and for the lack of terms, hard labor. These jobs require a lot physical strength and also they come from foreigners especially from India or China. They can be seen posing in their working environment, holding their tools of trade. I really like the above photo featuring the grass cutter. The composition is really nice and the contrast colour of green and their red uniforms really make the photography pops out. SGI19

This photo however, might not be talking about glorifying the role of a maid though. I feel this photo tells the sad reality of a maid actually. They can be seen doing many things for example, taking care of a baby, ironing clothes, vacuuming and the list goes on. Even though you can say that it is glorifying the job, it is not necessary in a good way and this photo has a really good layer in terms of its message and visual.SGI37

This photo is also interesting in terms of featuring the locals trishaw drivers. Again, all the subjects in the photos are pose to make them look important and matter in life. The artist have actually brought up the topic of labor by making the subjects behave in a very unlikely manner. The message pertaining labor is brought up through the juxtaposition of its subjects and content. Being in Singapore, these people is a very aplenty in our everyday lives but we always ignore them and the topic of being invisible is relevant here. So Jing Quek is bringing them into the limelight and let us viewers see that they too are humans and hold beautiful colours in our lives.

Another artist that pops up in my head that speaks about labor is none other than the great Banksy.

In this introduction video to the Simpsons, Bansky speaks about Labour in it. From using child labour to animal abuse to even killing animal for the sake of mass making products. This video I feel might reflect the accuracy of the mass market right now. We all know that child labour is being used in those poor developing countries to make goods. And that is why unicorns no longer exists in this planet. Plus, I feel this medium of using animation and video can easily reach to the masses and the message Banksy is trying to tell can be watched by millions of people who are watching The Simpsons.

Another work by Banksy is this mural at a wall located at Wood Green, London. It depicts a child labour sewing the union jack flags in masses. The work was a protest against the use of sweatshops to manufacture Diamond Jubilee and London Olympics memorabilia in 2012. Afterwards, the wall was actually removed and it was sold for $1.1 Million dollars at an auction house. It was a very controversial topic because Banksy made the mural for the public but yet it was removed and sold. Being that controversial story that it is, I feel that the controversial took over the message of the artwork actually. Nonetheless, you can get the sense of labour being depict here in a form of a boy and the sewing machine.

Slave Labour (2012) - Banksy, Wood Green, London

Slave Labour (2012) – Banksy, Wood Green, London

Slave Labour (2012) - Banksy, Wood Green, London

Slave Labour (2012) – Banksy, Wood Green, London

Labor is essential to the economy and nation building. There are 15 definition of labor in an online dictionary. I cannot imagine number 11.

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