Labor/Movement (seven workers) depicts movement visually in book form, while calling attention to the complexity of everyday human activity. The book tracks the motions of seven workers over a brief period of time with lines that change in length, width and color. As the segments of motion grow, page by page, lines intersect and interact, joining to form an intricate pattern on top of a static industrial floor. Shades of silver ink overlap to create a rich, opulent field that belies the seemingly humble activity. Each folio is sewn onto the mountain fold of a concertina. When the concertina is fully extended by the reader, a portion of each page can be seen simultaneously with each other page, exposing the frame by frame growth of the movement pattern. The reader/viewer is implicated in the performance of the book and asked to be aware of her movements as she interacts with the piece.

These abstract reductions of the movements of workers are inspired by the work of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth who developed time and motion studies in the early 20th century to improve worker efficiency and productivity. Their work broke down any job into a series of discreet movements that could be repeated by anyone, obviating the need for specialized and skilled laborers. 

The imagery is paired with 'Lecture on Moving,' a text by Yvonne Rainer, reprinted with permission of the author, originally published in Aspen magazine, 1971. Yvonne Rainer is an avante garde dancer and filmmaker whose dance work often highlights everyday movements. In the text, YR leads a group through an exercise designed to make the participants more aware of their physical presence in the world. She lists the dictionary definitions of a variety of action words, that, when placed in the context of the “performance” become evocative of more than their simple definitions.

 

Photograph by Stephen Petegorsky