Exhibition Launch: Manual Labours – The Complaining Body at Peltz Gallery, 5 February 2016

Manual Labours : The Complaining Body

Exhibition Launch: Friday 5 February 2016, 6-8pm
Dates: Saturday 6 February – Thursday 3rd March 2016
Location: Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck, School of Arts, 43 Gordon Square, London
Opening Hours: Monday-Friday: 10am-8pm and Saturday: 10am – 5pm. Closed Sundays.

Join us at The Peltz Gallery for the first presentation of research from Manual Labours: The Complaining Body and the launch of our third publication Manual Labours Manual #3.

The Complaining Body
Manual Labours: The Complaining Body is a one month exhibition at The Peltz Gallery and presents the process, findings and analysis of an 18 month long investigation into the physical and emotional affects of complaining, receiving complaints and not being able to complain in the context of work. Our research has involved a series of workshops with call centre workers in a London Borough Council, commuters on a train station platform in Worcester and staff dealing with student complaints in a UK University. The exhibition presents our practice-based methodologies and offers a moment for new contributors to engage and discuss the findings, drawing on what complaints we share and can collectivise around.

Manual Labours: The Complaining Body asks: what are the physical impacts on the body when complaining, receiving complaints and when you feel unable to complain?  The emotional labour involved in listening to and managing complaints; the social and cultural conditions of complaining and the affect of not complaining all have repercussions on the body as a site of resistance, absorption and expulsion. The research explores the normative discourses of the good, healthy, productive body which are disrupted by the complaining body.  The uncomplaining body is often in fact a sick body, having to perform a healthy body and happy self by internalising and stifling our complaints.  The exhibition reflects on stories of how and why the complaining body is performed, silenced and internalised.

Manual Labours: The Complaining Body is a practice-based research project by Sophie Hope and Jenny Richards, developed with the artist Sarah Browne, choreographer Hamish MacPherson and writer Ivor Southwood who have produced three new commissions in response to the theme. Strands of their research will be presented at the Peltz Gallery.  Ivor Southwood launches a new essay, The Uncomplaining Body, which investigates the culture of a large workplace from the perspective of an outsourced temporary cleaner/porter.  Hamish MacPherson invites you to join him in Breastbeating – a card game simulating an after work session in the pub where the only thing you have to do is complain. And on March 1st a curated screening by Sarah Browne entitled The Revolting Body shares research that has informed her new commission Report to an Academy, concerned with the academic environment as a workplace. The exhibition also includes a specially commissioned feedback form by artist Barry Sykes and a newly designed table to host complaining bodies designed by architects Samson Adjei and Greg Epps.

Manual Labours: The Complaining Body Events

Exhibition Launch: Friday 5 February 2016, 6-8pm
Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck School of Arts, 43 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PD
Launch of the exhibition and the new publication Manual Labours Manual #3 alongside Ivor Southwood’s commissioned essay, The Uncomplaining Body. Ivor will introduce his essay and refreshments will be served!

Analysing The Uncomplaining Body: Tuesday 1 March 2016
4-6pm Round Table Workshop
Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck School of Arts, 43 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PD

Join us for an afternoon round-table workshop to collectively analyse some of the research gathered through The Complaining Body project.  The event focuses on the physical implications of the stifling of complaints and how the body responds through the expulsions of matter in the form of diarrhoea, vomiting and crying. We invite you to join us in sharing your experiences and perspectives, helping to construct and imagine what the physical effects of a collective complaint might produce.

The Revolting Body, selected by Sarah Browne: Tuesday 1 March 2016, 6pm Screening
Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck School of Arts, 43 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PD

Following the workshop we will screen The Revolting Body a selection of moving image material from diverse sources including artist film and video, amateur collectives and contemporary protest groups, produced over the last forty years.  The ‘body’ alluded to in the programme title might be an individual or a collective body, troubled with imminent eruption.

Whistleblowing as Complaining; Blacklisting as Bullying: 3 March, 6-9pm
Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck School of Arts, 43 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PD

This workshop brings together activists and academics to explore cases of speaking out and complaining about working conditions individually and collectively. We will be sharing examples of the personal, mental, physical, material and legal ingredients needed to complain and the impacts and implications. Presentations include Lucy Parker’s current project Blacklist and her research into the experiences of blacklisted workers.

Full details of the events programme go to: www.manuallabours.co.uk or email manual.labours@gmail.com
All events are free.

Spring Exhibitions

Manual Labours: The Complaining Body has been developed in partnership with In Certain Places, Preston, Movement, Worcester and The Showroom Gallery, London. Each of these organisations form a site to distribute our research and present the new commissions by Sarah Browne, Hamish MacPherson and Ivor Southwood.

In November 2015 we returned to In Certain Places to present a special event in collaboration with University of Central Lancashire’s Institute for research into Organisations Work and Employment (iROWE).  Together with Sweta Rajan-Rankin (lecturer in Social Policy at Brunel University, London) we discussed the processes of complaining from making to managing to mellowing.  Hamish MacPherson presented the first stage of his commission Breastbeating.

1) Manual Labours : The Complaining Body
Sarah Browne, Hamish MacPherson and Ivor Southwood
The Showroom Gallery
Penfold Street, London
4-12 April 2016

All three new commissions will be presented in a special exhibition at The Showroom Gallery this April.  The exhibition includes a new project by Sarah Browne titled Report to an Academy (drawing from the Kafka story of the same title) which explores the physical sensations and impacts of speech, in search of new articulacy and agility.  Ivor Southwood will share his new essay The Uncomplaining Body and Hamish MacPherson will invite new contributors to take part in his ongoing work Breastbeating, a card game developed from a series of workshops with call centre workers in a London borough council. www.theshowroom.org

2) Manual Labours : The Complaining Body
Sarah Browne, Hamish MacPherson and Ivor Southwood
2 Worcester Foregate Street Railway Station, Worcester
22 June 22 – 22 July 2016

Sarah Browne’s new film Report to an Academy will be screened in a month long exhibition at Movement, an artist-run space located on the Worcester Foregate Street train station platform.

About Manual Labours
Manual Labours is a research project exploring physical and emotional relationships to work, initiated by Sophie Hope and Jenny Richards.  Manual Labours: The Complaining Body is the second phase of our research and explores the world of workplace complaints with artists Sarah Browne, choreographer Hamish MacPherson and writer Ivor Southwood and is developed in partnership with In Certain Places, Preston, Movement, Worcester and The Showroom Gallery, London.  Manual Labours : The Complaining Body is supported by Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts, The Elephant Trust, The Birkbeck/Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund and Birkbeck University Widening Access.

If you would like to find out more or contribute to this project please email us: manual.labours@gmail.com or visit www.manuallabours.co.uk

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Peltz Internship

Birkbeck’s Peltz Gallery, hosted at the School of Arts, is a flexible exhibition space for digital and material displays, small-scale performances, lectures and meetings. The space allows a constellation of research and creative activities to happen at the heart of the building.  Over the two years since it was opened, the Peltz has hosted a wide range of exhibitions based on the research interests and public engagement activities of academics and other staff at Birkbeck. Over the coming year, the range of exhibitions, and associated public events, is due to expand with plans for an artist-in-residence scheme. This provides a valuable opportunity for Birkbeck MPhil/PhD students to gain valuable experience in curating and event management processes.

We are delighted to offer MPhil/PhD students at Birkbeck the opportunity to develop their experience of working in a gallery.  We wish to appoint one intern per academic term during this academic year to work closely with the Peltz Director Annie Coombes, Dr Wendy Earle (Impact development officer), Peltz committee members as appropriate, and the Gallery Administrator and Media Technician. In particular, the interns would be involved in:

  • Supporting the curation and organisation of exhibitions at the Peltz
  • The organisation, promotion and hosting of academic and cultural events, symposia, workshops, screenings and master classes, including the artist-in-residence scheme.
  • To coordinate documentation and recording of events, audience surveys and follow up, social media practices and development, to participate in and contribute to Peltz Committee meetings and liaise across the Schools and College on behalf of the Gallery.

We need to recruit an intern for next term. The position involves a total 40 hours work paid at £15.55/hr.

The essential components of this role are:

  • Event co-ordination and promotion to target audiences (using online resources and social media)
  • Help with promotion, installation and deinstalling exhibitions in the Peltz
  • Manage design and print of event publications
  • Promotion of exhibition through social and other media
  • Monitor numbers and feedback
  • Draft evaluation report

Please note that the job requires hands on assistance and willingness to troubleshoot


Knowledge and experience required:

We are looking for a Birkbeck MPhil/PhD student with some experience of

  • working in a gallery and curating exhibitions – including installation and de-installation
  • liaising between individuals in different organisations and within different departments
  • scheduling and managing schedules


Interested individuals should send an expression of interest together with CV to w.earle@bbk.ac.uk by 6pm, Monday December 21.


(Funding for this post comes from Birkbeck’s Generic Skills Fund overseen by Birkbeck Graduate Research School.)

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A Fun Palace for Grown Ups – Saturday 4th October 2015

On Sunday 4 October from 2.30pm, the Centre for Contemporary Theatre is hosting events in the School of Arts as part of Camden People’s Theatre’s contribution to this year’s national Fun Palaces festival: A Fun Palace for Grown Ups http://www.bbk.ac.uk/english/our-research/bcct/events

CPT’s Fun Palace for Grown Ups is distinctive as the focus of Fun Palace events tends to be on children and young people.

As part of A Fun Palace for Grown Ups, we are really pleased to be presenting a talk from Philip Hedley (former artistic director of Theatre Royal Stratford East), rehearsed readings from The Writers’ Group (consisting of MA Text and Performance students) and a new performance from a young theatre company, BARK.

A Fun Palace for Grown Ups comes at the end of what is induction week for many programmes, and can act as an additional welcome to new students.  Information on the line-up of events hosted in the School of Arts is below, and links to the events at CPT and other venues in the Euston area.

A Fun Palace for Grown Ups: A FREE celebration of being a grown up from Camden People’s Theatre, New Diorama, Birkbeck, Wellcome Collection, the Fitzrovia Centre & others.

All events are FREE but booking is essential: http://www.cptheatre.co.uk/show/fun_palaces.php

Birkbeck events take place in the School of Arts, 43 Gordon Square WC1H 0PD
Sunday 4 October, 2.30-5.30pm

2.30-4.30pm: The Writers’ Group: Rehearsed Readings, Peltz Gallery

– Neka Da Costa, Whoopey’s the Musical: A dark comedy that satirizes the nitty gritty of the fast food industry, set in a fictional but recognizable restaurant.
– Wafik Doss, Staged Impeachment: A play about a play that never gets played.
– Lucinda Everett, Liked: A drama exploring the darker side of the world’s obsession with youtube.
– Yuki Sakamoto, The Macaroni War: A story about imagination and its loss and a warning to all ages.
– Virginia Smith, My Shrimp and I: An exploration of cultural stereotyping through a one-woman show that intertwines music and words.
– Kate Tiernan, Freight: Adventure in a tiny tin tank. A freight carriage holds hostage the hopes of freedom. With lyrical and fiercely poetic language, two characters fight to conceal their judgment and desires in the pursuit of anonymity.
– Rebecca Williams, Hikikomori in London: Mental health labels when cultures collide: the story of a unique friendship when one man tries to help someone he can’t hope to understand.

3-4pm: Answer A) BARK School by BARK, G10

Re-realise your potential as a school child in these ridiculous one-on-one mini classes.

2.30-5.30pm: Joan Littlewood: Her Life and Work

Philip Hedley was Joan Littlewood’s assistant director for two years and her successor as artistic director of the Theatre Royal Stratford East. Philip will give a detailed and rich account of one of the twentieth century’s most remarkable and influential UK theatre directors. With lively personal anecdotes, Philip will discuss the context for Joan’s work, her fundamental beliefs about theatre, and her legacy, including her ideas for a Fun Palace.

To book, and to see all events taking place as part of A Fun Palace for Grown Ups, visit http://www.cptheatre.co.uk/show/fun_palaces.php


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