Sonia Barrett

Using video and mixed-media sculpture, I re-image the common denominators of some of the hardest labourers, including unwaged mothers, carers, prostitutes and slaves by performing furniture. My work looks at the depletion of people to fit the needs of others and attempts to amplify a niggling malaise that such depletion causes. This malaise is something many of us feel reaching for a sweatshop product, which we still take to the checkout regardless of its exploitative origins.

People who labour in this way are like the generic furniture in our lives. We glance fleetingly at them before sitting down – achieving intimate body contact and letting them bear our entire weight while we get on with whatever we need to do. This series of work plays with this overlooking, mindlessness and depletion, as we allow others, unseen and irrelevant, to facilitate our lives.

How can we use people on a regular basis to do intimate labour for us without ever seeing them? The work asks how ingrained these kinds of non-relationships are in the structure of our lives. It considers what we would see if we started to look at what we have been ignoring, and what it would be like to exist in this space.

Unwaged labourers share two important things: close contact with the bodily fluids of others and a lack of individual identity caused by their interchangeability. This lack of identity is amplified by the labourer's view of themselves while they work "mindlessly" on "autopilot", often as a self-preservation mechanism.

It is my intention to make powerful works that impact upon the viewer on a number of levels and remain within their visual memory for longer than they may prefer in order to affect social change. In this sense, I believe art can be a revolutionary force.




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