Women’s labour

15 November 2021 - one response

In September and October 2021 an exhibition of Peruvian artists was on view in the Studio gallery in Warsaw (curator: Inés R. Artola). One of the works exhibited was a photo documentation of a performance made by Wynnie Mynerva in 2020. What the Cleaners Clean? was performed together with her mother Blanca Ortiz Basurto who “like many other domestic employees was dismissed during the COVID-19 pandemic.” The artists decided to spend the prize she received in the Passport for an Artist national competition to hire her mother. For one month (August 25–September 23, 2020) together they cleaned, wearing the uniforms of domestic workers, a sandy patch of ground in Villa el Salvador.

[Wynnie Mynerva, What the Cleaners Clean?, documentation of the project, 2020, Studio Gallery, Warsaw, Courtesy of the Studio Gallery]


To what extent is the problem addressed by Wynnie Mynerva specific? Is her observation that “many domestic employees were dismissed during the COVID-19 pandemic” only relevant to Peru, for Latin America or globally? What are the specificities of domestic workers situation in face of the COVID-19 pandemic in our regions and in particular countries that constitute them?

This performance brought to my mind a poster campaign conceived and curated by Ukrainian artist Oksana Briukhovetska realised in Warsaw in 2018 and devoted to Ukrainian female migrant workers in Poland. The posters presented Ukrainian female employees (the majority of them were domestic workers but also a female doctor was presented) against the background of a 200-hryvnia bill depicting the prominent female poet and socialist activist Lesya Ukrainka. This campaign raised the important issue of economic divisions within the regions. While it can be said that women from Eastern Europe provide domestic work for the residents of the more affluent European countries, there exist significant economic discrepancies that lead to labour migration among countries in the Eastern Europe.

[source: https://pl-pl.facebook.com/festiwalwarszawawbudowie/photos/plakaty-oksany-briuchoweckiej-oxanna-briu-autorstwa-takich-artyst%C3%B3w-jak-ksenia-h/1928652930557758/]


By: Agata Jakubowska

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  1. Agata Jakubowska

    As a supplement a video work by Polish artist Julia Popławska Because when you want something badly (2013). The main protagonist is a middle-aged woman from Poland who works as a domestic worker in Berlin. We see her at her work in Berlin, and in a kitchen in her Polish apartment where she talks with the artist. We also hear other women describing their similar experiences. They say that they planned to stay in Berlin as domestic workers for a year, but 16, 18 years have passed and they are still there, torn between their two homes. When asked what would make them come back to Poland, they talk about the difficulty of finding a job in Poland, about differences in earnings, but also that in the case of many women their pride and ambition do not allow them to perform this job in Poland.
    Julia Popławska Because when you want something badly (2013), video, courtesy of the artist

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