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Image courtesy Manual Labours

Image courtesy Manual Labours

Image courtesy Manual Labours

Image courtesy Manual Labours

Events - Special Events

Manual Labours: The Building as a Body

Nottingham Contemporary Residents 2016-2017

23 May 2017

Manual Labours: The Building as Body is a practice-based research project led by Sophie Hope and Jenny Richards as part of their long-term project Manual Labours exploring physical and emotional relationships to work. During their residency at Nottingham Contemporary Sophie and Jenny are moving their explorations of the ‘(un)complaining body’ into the architecture of the workplace, taking the building of Nottingham Contemporary as a case study. They are looking into the ways in which buildings and bodies are fluid ecosystems which affect each other.

Emerging research questions include:

•   How do aspects of the building (storage, lighting, air, access routes) make staff feel?

•   What might an anatomy of the building in terms of its different body systems look like?

•   Where is the building hurting, blocked-up, suffering, sore, seeping, neglected?

•   What impact does a complaining building have on a complaining body? How does architecture constitute a sick body?

•   What are the gendered, female, reproductive aspects of the building and (why) are they taken for granted/forgotten/exploited? What affects does this have on people’s experience of work?

Jenny and Sophie are exploring these questions with a group of staff at Nottingham Contemporary through a series of workshops and performances.

Since November 2016 Jenny, Sophie together with the staff have started to map body systems onto the building and visited different parts of the site to identify symptoms and then diagnose the conditions. This has resulted in a series of health assessments drafted by the staff which will be fed back to the organisation and board at the end of this year.

In May 2017 they produced a public event inviting visitors to join them on an architectural endoscopy of the building based upon staff descriptions of the different sites of work ‘behind the scenes’ to the public galleries. A hysteroscopy of Nottingham Contemporary is currently in development with staff.

For more information about Manual Labours go to:


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