Rachel Schreiber | research

Holding Up More Than Half the Sky
Produced in collaboration with Laura Burns
Exhibited: Art in General, New York City, April 2004

Images

Statement

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Images

Holding Up More Than Half the Sky

[Text]

Left panel:
Holding Up More Than Half the Sky

Middle panel:
The garment trades in New York City have been greatly affected by globalization, increasing production costs and the aftermath of the events of 9/11. In 2003 there are fewer factories in Manhattan than ten years ago. In spite of this the garment industry is still the largest manufacturing sector in New York City, employing some 50-60,000 people.

Right panel:
In 1982 20,000 workers gathered in Columbus Park to protest working conditions in the Chinatown garment trades. These three women were among the organizers. Today, they cannot face the street for fear of repercussions in the workplace, where violations of workers’ rights persist. All of them still work as union organizers.

Holding Up More Than Half the Sky, Installation shot

Installation shot

 

Statement

For “Holding Up More Than Half the Sky,” Laura Burns and I were invited by the New York gallery Art in General to produce a site-specific window installation that would respond to the gallery’s close proximity to sweatshops employing Chinese and Chinese-American women. After studying the history of sweatshop labor in New York City's Chinatown, we spent time there interviewing neighborhood labor activists in the neighborhood. We then made our request to photograph these women. The activists, however, expressed their discomfort at having their portraits displayed publicly, as this might hinder their ability to surreptitiously organize workers. We responded by photographing the women with their backs turned to the camera. The text of the piece was incorporated in Chinese and English, thereby inviting the women leaving work from sweatshops across the street from the gallery to come view the piece, turning their attention to an art gallery which did not normally seem to address them. Simultaneously, the work encourages regular gallery-goers to consider the people who work in the neighborhood surrounding the gallery, and the labor they perform.

 

 

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