Lisa Vinebaum

Lisa Vinebaum is an interdisciplinary artist, critical writer, and educator. Her studio practice incorporates text-based installations and work with neon, performance and site specific interventions, textiles, video, photography and protest tactics. Current research and artistic investigations explore labor, performance and collectivity in the larger context of economic globalization and cutbacks to workers’ rights. Lisa Vinebaum holds a PhD in Art from Goldsmiths, University of London (UK); an MA in Textiles also from Goldsmiths, and a BFA from Concordia University in Montreal.


Residency Period:

Sep 2015–Dec 2015

Project Statement:

Scope of the project: I propose the creation of a series of silk screened, text based posters on paper exploring historical and contemporary labor issues and labor struggles. The posters will use typography, font styles, and layouts reminiscent of historical print posters and calls to action produced by American labor unions during the first part of the 20th century, a time when American workers fought for and won historical rights including the right to a regulated, eight-­‐hour work day and the 40-­‐hour work week; vacation and overtime pay; collective bargaining rights and the right to freedom of association; pension and health care benefits; and safer, regulated working conditions. Since the 1980s these hard won rights have been curtailed and even eliminated, owing to domestic and international factors, including economic deregulation and globalization; the rise of post-­‐Fordist economic models and an emphasis on "free market" labor systems; corporate restructuring and a shift to more precarious, part-­‐time and contract labor; and the emergence of the so-­‐called "sharing economy". Hundreds of thousands of full-­‐time, well-­‐paid, unionized positions in the transportation, steel, manufacturing, garment and textile, meat packing, food, and other industries have been lost here in the USA, with part-­‐time and migrant laborers forced into low paying, often dangerous jobs. The past ten years in particular have witnessed substantial (largely Republican-­‐driven) attacks on public and private sector unions, collective bargaining rights, and pension and other benefits, as wages remain largely stagnant. Today, fewer Americans than ever belong to unions than at any time in the nation's history. Yet at the same time, workers are organizing in new and innovative ways — both through traditional unions and more alternative worker associations and cooperatives — to raise awareness about the need for better pay and working conditions. Workers across the country are fighting for living wages and higher minimum wages, workplace protections, immigration reform and protections for migrant and undocumented workers, health care benefits, and collective bargaining and organizing rights, for example.

This proposed residency project is part of a larger, ongoing series of work under the title New Demands? Initiated in 2011, New Demands? incorporates public performances, placard installations, neon, and participatory workshops, in an effort to connect the current crisis in times labor to historical struggles for worker's rights. By commemorating specific events in labor history and adapting slogans from past labor struggles, the project highlights the fact that past demands for better working conditions remain incredibly relevant and necessary today. New Demands? draws on archival research into the visual iconography, slogans, and demands of the American labor movement. Source material for this proposed residency project has been gathered from online historical archives, as well as an in person visit to the archives of the International Ladies Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) at Cornell University

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