Manual Labour: Making and Making do

Bicycle wheel building, contortionism and taxidermy may appear to have absolutely nothing in common, and certainly no business in a window next to an MOT centre; but nonetheless, they all feature in this rolling, six-day programme of demonstrations, which brings unusual or outmoded skills and obsessions into public view.
Ordinarily these people pursue their crafts and techniques in contexts that make sense of them: the theatrical performer on a stage, the object maker in a commercial workshop, the hobbyist at their leisure. But here, the removal of the task in hand from the situation that renders it useful or relevant refocuses the act of making, the essence of labour itself, and the skill and expertise involved. A live-feed camera projects the close-up movements of accomplished hands and bodies that have spent years finessing their particular specialisms; but unlike television infotainment programmes, these demonstrations lack spoken explanation, and this silence leaves us plenty of space in which to ponder what is happening and why.
Whether for business or pleasure, there is no denying the time invested in these pursuits, both personal, in the famous 10,000 hours it takes to acquire a skill, and collective, through centuries of accrued folk skills and technological progression. Far from nostalgic, though, this array of talents and knowledges just goes to show how many supposedly useless, unprofitable or anachronous activities are hidden within the complexity of a functional and functioning con- temporary society.
Text written by Sally O’ Reilly

Venue: Cambridge Heath Road, London


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