12-Hour Working Day

by: Shvemy Sewing Cooperative

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2017, video (HD), 27’, color, sound, 16:9 | Performance Documentation | In Russian with English subtitles | Courtesy: the artists and Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow

The performance 12–Hour Working Day examines production conditions under contemporary capitalism and the labor policies and working conditions of female workers in undeveloped countries. Instead of verbally articulating the problem, the four co-founding members of Shvemy Sewing Cooperative decided to find out about the inhuman working practices of the garment industry through their own bodily experiences. They place themselves in similar conditions to those of seamstresses who serve major western clothing brands. The conditions are as follows: the working day lasts twelve hours, from 10 am to 10 pm. The members of the collective sew the same product, dividing the labor into tasks allocated to each individual, which approximates the apparel production system. The working process is based on speed, one 15-minute lunch break, up to three toilet breaks. The workers are only allowed to speak about topics relating to their work. The sewn products are put on sale to the audience the following day at the performance venue. The price per product is RUB 44 (around €0.60), which is approximately the amount that female workers earn per piece in factories in developing countries. Each product is adhered with the label “Made in Slavery.” 12–Hour Working Day was performed at the 2017 Triennial of Contemporary Art at Garage in Moscow.

Shvemy Sewing Cooperative (Mariia Lukianova, Antonina Melnyk, Olesya Panova, Anna Tereshkina) was co-founded in 2015 in St. Petersburg as the graduation project by students of the School for Engaged Art. Shvemy is an art and activism project, built on the model of an alternative economic structure. Its members regularly hold workshops on recycling and up-cycling clothes. Group and solo exhibitions include: Shvemy: two years of work. TU platform, Mariupol, Ukraine; Mobile activist sewing studio, as a part of CIVIC MEDIA LAD, Construction Festival, Dnipro, Ukraine; Garage Triennial of Russian Contemporary Art (2017); Textus: embroidery, textile and feminism, Kiev (2017); Female TSEKH-2016, Minsk (2016); The 9th dream of sewing cooperative’s collective body, Rosa’s House of culture, St. Petersburg (2016); Pakkasukko Putinia vastaan III Festival, Helsinki (2016); traveling actionist laboratory Not Peace, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev (2015–2016); MediaImpact Festival of Activist Art, Moscow (2015, 2016); 2nd Kiev Biennial of Contemporary Art, Kiev (2015).