Schipbreukeling – Mathieu Charles

Werker Collective

Werker (2009, Amsterdam) focuses on labour and was initiated by Marc Roig Blesa (1981, Madrid) and Rogier Delfos (1981, Amsterdam) in its home of Amsterdam. It began with the release of ten issues of Werker Magazine, inspired by Der Vereinigung der Arbeiter-Fotografen (the association of worker photographers), whose politicised photo clubs in 1920s Germany followed the first socialist photography experiments in the USSR. Under the signature Werker Collective, for the last 10 years, is activating workshops based on self-representation, self-publishing, image analysis, collaborative education processes and counter-archiving to expand self-publishing into moving image, installation and performance. Their international allies from researchers to schools to archives explore feminism, queerness and collective authorship inquire into worker’s solidarity and have included: Ariella Aïsha Azoulay; Casco Art Institute: Working for the Commons, Utrecht; Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo, Madrid; Ciudadan@s en Defensa de la Escuela Pública; Dutch Art Institute, Arnhem; Georgy Mamedov; International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam; Jo Spence Memorial Archive; Juan Carlos Mohr; Julia Morandeira Arrizabalaga; Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona; Rijksakademie van beelende kunsten, Amsterdam; Sindillar: Sindicato de Trabajadoras del Hogar y los Cuidados, Barcelona; Susoespai: Creació i Salut Mental, Barcelona; Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam; The Showroom, London; The Voice of Domestic Workers, London; and We Sell Reality, Amsterdam.

The Werker Archief in Amsterdam has over 3,000 documents centered on labour. Textiles of Resistance: Growing, Weaving, Printing, Archiving uses the eponymous processes to question the material basis of their own archive: paper, which is emblematic of the human/nature divide. In translating the archive onto fabric, they incur greater interaction between nature and non-human forms of life, experimenting with the labour and ecology of craft in artisanal production. A gardening practice is developed alongside, at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. By working with plants, the project also traces the craft of colour: its social, political, symbolic and ecological implications. Werker looks to these materials at the root of craft to see how trade shapes the social use of fabrics that influence our relation to plants and in turn shape landscape and culture. 

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