Uncertain Futures: New project by Suzanne Lacy.
Manchester Art Gallery
Friday 1 May 2020–Sunday 2 May 2021
The Suzanne Lacy Retrospective, due to open in spring 2020, has been temporarily postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic
Uncertain Futures is a new long-term collaborative artwork with Ruth Edson (Learning Manager at Manchester Art Gallery) and women across Manchester and beyond. It explores the work lives of women over 50, particularly in relation to changes to the pension age and how it affects their work, health and financial situations. In a new collaborative community work, involving staff from University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University, working with civic organizations dealing with women, work, and immigration, we will raise key issues and develop new knowledge in the process of an artwork. The installation, opening on 1 May, is a site in the Gallery where over 100 women from all walks of life in Manchester will be interviewed. Their conversations will be part of the participatory artwork and will be collected on a website to provide new data on lived experiences to inform public policies. Throughout the installation, Manchester Art Gallery will offer workshops, conversations and talks that explore issues raised in the interviews.
As part of this project, Lacy will premiere a new film on Cleaning Conditions. This new installation contrasts the important Ford Madox Brown painting, Work, with a film by Victoria Dahl and Leanne Judge that documents a two-week performance in 2013 at Manchester Art Gallery for the Do It exhibition curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist for Manchester International Festival. A team of volunteer ‘sweepers’ from labour, living wage and immigration organisations swept the gallery floors every day, pausing at the end of the cleaning for a conversation on current conditions throughout England. An homage to her mentor, American performance artist Allan Kaprow, Lacy created a political conversation appropriate to the city at that time in response to Kaprow’s 1995 text Chores:
Sweeping the dust from the floor of a room,
Spreading the dust in another room
So it won’t be noticed
These two works installed together are made with Mancunians and respond to urgent social questions about labour and the impact of gender, class and migration status. This exhibition transforms the gallery into a convening space for people to discuss the issues and act together to create real social change.
Throughout her prolific career, Suzanne Lacy has been a forerunner of socially engaged art and public practice, promoting dialogue and collaborations with wide-ranging communities across the globe. Since the 1970s, her community organising strategies and media interventions have galvanised discussions about pressing social issues including gender equity, violence against women, racism, immigration, and labour rights. These projects often culminate in large-scale, highly choreographed performances that bring together diverse groups of participants in public conversations. Lacy is a professor at the University of Southern California in the Roski School of Art and Design.
Uncertain Futures is a collaboration between Lacy and Ruth Edson, and features the work of Elaine Dewhurst and Sarah Campbell. Participating partners include women from the following Manchester groups have helped inform and develop Uncertain Futures: The Grange Community Centre – Get Ready to work, Breakthrough UK, Manchester Carers Forum, Wythenshawe Good Neighbours, Manchester Adult Education Service ESOL, Wai Yin Society, Cheetham Welcome Centre, Brunswick Over 50’s, Levenshulme Inspire, Longsight Women’s Voices, Maya Network.
Uncertain Futures is a partnership between women and agencies in Manchester, University of Manchester School of Law and Social Sciences, Manchester Metropolitan University School of Nursing and Social Care, Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing and Works and Skills MCC. The title is taken from the research consortium Uncertain Futures: Managing late-career transitions and extended working life led by Professor Sarah Vickerstaff.
Suzanne Lacy Cleaning Conditions, 2013