Bodies of Work
“Disappointment is the governing affect of feminism”, writes Andrea Long Chu. Feminism invariably lets us (lesbian/Marxist/Black/ queer/trans/Twitter feminists) down, she says, by proving time and time again its status as polymorphous fantasy in relation to whatever change we had hoped it would bring about. In this way, Bodies of Work, a film and lecture program on women and labour curated by Benison Kilby and hosted by Bus Projects throughout September, was deeply disappointing. I loved it.
Bodies of Work continued the agenda of the eponymous show held at Bus in 2019, back when IRL gallery space existed. The films spanned diffuse subjects. Taken as a whole, they made the case for considering women’s artistic strategies for addressing exploitative working conditions of the past in relation to contemporary conditions of gendered neoliberal precarity. Undervalued social reproduction and feminised labour conditions were endemic pre-COVID. The virus has only intensified the structural disparities in Australia’s inequitable service economy. Women workers, many of whom are migrants, have borne the brunt of the pandemic’s havoc; data on the distribution of infection has reiterated the life-threatening status of frontline care work. Bodies of Work looked to strategies of the past to understand our precarity in the present.