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September 2011

Margareta Kern asks ‘Who are the migrant workers today?’

The first session of the ‘terms & conditions’ series focused on the question ‘Who are the migrant workers today? (mapping precarious labour)’ using it as a way into opening up the complex landscape of increasingly precarious labour market, where the most vulnerable, particularly migrants, are exposed to abuse, de-skilling and low pay under employment and dangerous working conditions.

Images from ‘Who are the migrant workers today’

The session opened with Dr Faiza Shaheen, who is an economist and the senior researcher with the New Economics Foundation, whose research and work is specifically focused on economic inequalities. She is the author of the report on the effect of the immigration cap ‘Why the Cap won’t fit’, which can be accessed here.  Faiza brought really important stats into the picture –starting with the pay gap which is still present, male £8.56 and female £7.66 per hour, which showed how the labour market is deeply affected by gender as much as by migration, she also showed visually through her charts how the high salaries are getting higher and for those already on the low pay, they are getting even lower, the effect of it being, as Faiza used the term hollowing out of the middle.

Kevin Ward, Professor in Human Geography at the University of Manchester, and director of cities@manchester mapped ways in which the labour market in the UK has changed in the last thirty years, with the restructuring of the public sector, expansion of low paying, poor quality private sector industries, and the turn towards contract and temporary labour market through the formalization of informal internal arrangements, ‘contracting-out’, all this resulting in increase of ‘non-standard’, often insecure or precarious employment forms, which affects those on the lower end of labour market, such as, but not exclusively, the migrants most. The term that Kevin used particularly stuck with me – workplace/out of place.

Jose Louis Sanches, from the Latin American Workers Association (LAWAS) introduced us to the work of the association –a migrant-led, self organising group of Latin-American working mostly in the service sector especially cleaning. Through self-organisation, education, collective actions and campaigns, the association’s mission is to expose and challenge exploitation and victimisation at the workplace. Jose Louis spoke of his own experience of working in the service industry, for employers such as west-end theatres and hospitals, who were paying below minimum wage, and would not meet the basic standards of health and safety. He also spoke of the deeply unjust practices of blackmail and threats of deportation by employers, using the precarious immigrations status of their employees would lower the wages and health & safety conditions. Jose Louis was part of the group of migrant workers who were detained, and six of his colleagues were deported, but with the support of LAWAS, other groups and IWW, he managed to get a solicitor and was released from detention.


To find out more about LAWAS, please see LAWAS organises language exchange classes (English-Spanish), so if you are interested in joining-in please come every Saturday, from 10am to 12pm, Room L123b, London Road Building, 100-116 London Road, London South Bank University, SE1 6LN.

Precarious Workers Brigade, a UK-based growing group of precarious workers in culture and education, after a brief introduction, created three working groups, in order to discuss and organise a response to three issues/questions. One group worked on a response to the new troubling development of the Arts Council becoming a ‘Designated Competent Body of the Home Office’, with the power to ‘assess applications from artists applying for Tier 1 visas to enter UK on the basis of their exceptional talent’. Second group talked about ways in which cultural sector workers can forge solidarity links and campaigns with workers in other sectors, and the third group discussed ways in which ‘embarrassment’ can be used as a campaigning tool.

To find out more about the collective Precarious Workers Brigade and to join in, please see

The combination of talks, discussions and workshop shifted the event into more of a hands-on session, with the issues we started mapping turned into questions around how do we address these unjust conditions, how to build solidarities and networks that go beyond our immediate concerns, but are linked by deepening of precarious conditions in which we labour and live.

Find out more about terms & conditions - there is also audio recordings of the speakers and photos of the events available on the project web page.

Artist of the week: Nilbar Güreş

detail from ‘Self-Defloration’, Nilbar Güreş

A busy couple of months for Nilbar Güreş with two solo shows, the first at Künstlerhaus Stuttgart where she will display ‘Uberkannte Sportaten (Unknown Sports)’, a work which was shown at Rivington place in December of last year alongside the opening of her new comission for the Rivington Place window, Beekeeper.

The Künstlerhaus Stuttgart exhibition opened on the 8th of September and closes at the end of October and will showcase nine other video, photographic and mixed media works, as well as limited edition posters of her ‘Trabzone’ series. The Künstlerhaus will also have the pleasure of showing Güreş’s ‘Wolf and Schaf’ a new work produced this year. Güreş’s will also be representing Turkey’s ‘Rampa’ gallery at Frieze Frame; the 13th to the 16th of October, a new part of the fair for young Galleries who will give their entire space to a single artist.

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Art & Economies: Pawnshop at Thessaloniki Biennial


Forget gallery hassles GET CASH NOW! High! Fast! Immediate cash payments!  Come on down today! 

Established by artists Julieta Aranda and Anton Vidokle in New York in 2008, PAWNSHOP went bankrupt at the beginning of the world financial crises, only to re-open successfully in Beijing and, most recently, at Art Basel.

Structurally, a pawnshop is a short-term loan business, which retains a collateral object (a camera, a ring, a guitar, a gun, and in this case an artwork) in exchange for a cash loan—a small fraction of the object’s value that needs to be repaid with interest within a one-month period. If the owner of the pawned object does not return to collect it and repay the loan + interest within 30 days, the pawnbroker has the right to sell it.

What is of particular interest in pawnshops is the peculiar mixture of the illicit and the desperate, futurity and anticipation. The idea that the object is collateral for cash that might be traded back for the object during a set duration, could be put in other words, that works of art and money are just dancing in a choreography in which they might just circle back and meet again, and cancel each other out, but in fact rarely do.

All profits from PAWNSHOP have been donated to Doctors Without Borders.

PAWNSHOP Inventory:
Lucas Ajemian, Armando Andrade, Florian Aner, Artemio, Michael Baers, Christin Berg, Bik Van Der Pool, Julien J. Bismuth, Chloe Briggs, Mike Bouchet, Svetlana Boym, Francois Bucher, Andrea Büttner, Etienne Chambaud, Herman Chong, Branka Cvjeticanin, William Diaz, NICO DOCKX, Gardar Eide Einarsson, Annika Eriksson, Köken Ergun, Jakup Ferri, Jean-Pascale Flavien, Harrell Fletcher, Iris Flügel, Egan Frantz, Peter Freidl, Jaime Gecker, Carmen Gheorghe, Barbad Golshiri, Sara Greenberger-Rafferty, Antonia Hirsch, Klara Hobza, Ralf Homann, Sejla Kameric, Matt Keegan, Christoph Keller, Staš Kleindienst, Runo Lagomarsino, Andriana Lara, Annika Larsson, Sebastjan Leban, Kit Lee, David Levine, Liz Linden, Nuno daLuz, Rodrigo Mallea Lira, Lucas Moran, Gean Moreno, Shane Munro, Sina Najafi, Trine Lise Nedreaas, Carsten Nicolai, Lisa Oppenheim, Ernesto Oroza, Bernardo Oritz Campo, Wendelien van Oldenborgh, Marion von Osten, Olivia Plender, Bettina Pousttchi, Khalil Rabah, Manuel Raven, Fay Ray, Joseph Redwood-Martinez, Anri Sala, Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Julia Scher, Jessica Sehut, Matt Sheridan Smith, Aaron Simonton, Shelly Silver, Lucy Skaer, Michael Smith, Nedko Solakov, Francesco Spampinato, Peter Spillman Franz Stauffenberg, Eric Stephany, Martin Stiehl, SUPERFLEX/ COPYSHOP, Jalal Toufic, Andra Ursuta, Gabriela Vainsencher, Costa Vece, Lawrence Weiner, Ana Wolovick, Haegue Yang, Florian Zeyfang, Andrea Zittel

New works by:
Andreas Angelidakis, Uri Aran, Athanasios Argianas, Manfredi Beninati, Carolina Caycedo, Christina Dimitriadis, Jimmie Durham, Irini Karagianopoulou, Apostolos Kotoulas, Nikolaj Larsen, Carlos Motta, Theofanis Nouskas, Angelo Plessas, Mathilde Rosier, Tayfun Serttas, Socratis Socratous, Chryse Tsiota and others.

Forget the market! Forget the fair! Dollar is Low! Recession is Back!
It’s time to shop… PAWNshop!

All information from

New commission: Book of Numbers by Anthony Key

 Artist Anthony Key creates a new commission for upcoming exhibition Entanglement: the Ambivalence of Identity
Anthony Key’s sculptures use food to playfully unpick certain ‘Chinese’ stereotypes. His new installation for the ‘Entanglement’ exhibition will be displayed in the window of Rivington Place and incorporates 8,000 chopsticks bound together. It draws attention to the restaurants and take-aways around the UK. The above image is the artist creating the work in his studio.

Each chopstick has the name and address of a Chinese restaurant handwritten on it by the artist.

Artist of the week: Othello De’souza-Hartley

Othello De’Souza-Hartley is a photographer and visual artist. He received a BA Honors in Media and Cultural with Drama and Theatre Arts from Middlesex University and a Post Graduate in Photography from Central St Martins School of Art. Othello has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions in London.

For the past two years he has been doing a part-time MA in Visual Art (Fine Art) at Camberwell College of Art, working on a project that explores Masculinity.

Masculinity Project Phase 3 (IN), 2011 exhibition: Open to the Public Friday 2-Thursday 8 September 2011

Mapping culture was an Iniva Learning project created with Othello De’Souza-Hartley where a group of year 5 and year 6 at Shacklewell school produced a ’culture map’.

The young people photographed places and objects around their school that they felt represented culture, marking them on the map with their personal connections written on index cards. The final map represents a personal and collective.  The project was created in collaboraton with A Space.

Find out more about Iniva Learning projects here:

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Art & Economies book recommendation – Imaginary Economics:

Imaginary Economics: Contemporary Artists and the Big World of Money

A British artist who destroys all of his belongings, a Dutch artist’s initiative that charts organization cultures, a Swiss artist who sells his right to participate in an exhibition via an online auction, an American artist who prints his own money and then succeeds in spending it . . . 

This book examines the ways in which contemporary artists represent economic processes. They no longer merely express their ideas about the market or subsidy systems through the media, but analyse and offer parodies of economic mechanisms in their work. (Information from Amazon).

Artists included in the book include:  Joseph Beuys, Christine Janowski, Meschac Gaba, Mark Lombardi to Santiago Sierra, Michael Landy, Maria Eichorn and others.

The book was published in 2005, however it resonates even more with today’s implications of the financial economy and economies we experience in our everyday lives.  Art historian and Economist Olav Velthius provides a good starting point in understanding how artists engage with the subjects of economies and translate them into visual formats and for physical experiences.

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