MEANWHILE

LEVEL 2, 99 WILLIS STREET 

TE ARO, TE WHANGANUI-A-TARA 

WELLINGTON

HUMAN RESOURCES

GWYN EASTERBROOK-SMITH AND ELISABETH POINTON

4 APRIL - 21 APRIL

Grounded in their experiences in the workplace, Pointon (bookings coordinator for a luxury car dealership) and Easterbrook-Smith (a sex worker) scrutinise unpaid performative and emotional labour undertaken by femmes in the workplace.

 

The multimedia exhibition consisting of installation, performance and video art offers a theatrical counterpart to their physical workplaces and the everyday practices that occur there. Pointon uses her working as the centre of her art research, and attempts to remedy the inherent structural problems that result from its hierarchical structure, through the gesture of art. In doing so, she facilitates opportunities to transform the communal spaces at her workplace from cold, isolating areas into humorous and [absurdly] hopeful sites for communion and engagement. The immersive space created within MEANWHILE uses elements from Pointon and Easterbrook-Smith’s workplaces, creating a synthesis of the visual elements and ephemera most associated with sex work, and the aspects which are frequently overlooked. The washing machine acts as a stand-in for the washing machines used by sex workers to wash towels at a brothel between bookings - an unpaid, but expected part of the role. Consequently, the washing becomes the equivalent to a water cooler in an office - a stopover object that facilitates the formation of community and alternative kinship between employees, free from the perspective of management.
 

The clinical nature of the space (with white towels, and clean black text) also refers to the sparse areas frequented and kept clean in workplaces through unacknowledged ‘women’s work’, through the unending washing of cups, or visiting the bathroom mirror to ensure the unspoken but expected standard of appearance is maintained. By placing these two artists’ occupations side by side, Human Resources highlights the frequently invisibilised labour carried out in both workplaces.

Gwyn Easterbrook-Smith is a sex worker and researcher based in Wellington, New Zealand. Easterbrook-Smith recently completed their PhD thesis “Illicit drive-through sex”, “Migrant Prostitutes”, and “Highly Educated Escorts”: productions of ‘acceptable’ sex work in New Zealand news media 2010 – 2016, which investigates who has access to notions of acceptability within the sex industry. Their research also considers the role of unacknowledged emotional labour within sex work, both when dealing with clients and in speaking publicly about the work. Easterbrook-Smith has recently appeared in Paying For It: An Insiders Guide to the New Zealand Sex Industry, Bats Theatre.

 

Elisabeth Pointon is a Wellington based artist whose recent works centre on her experiences as the Bookings Coordinator, and (eventually re-configured) artist in residence at a luxury car company, over the past two years. Her work extends across the media of public intervention, performance, sculpture text, and video. Recent projects include Don’t miss out. The Dowse Art Museum, March 2018- , Welcome to the real world*. Exposure,* 2017, The Welcoming Party Presents Free Time, MEANWHILE, August 2016, and The Welcoming Party Presents Complimentary Service, 2016 Performance Arcade.

Photos: Jordana Bragg, Mia Vinaccia