Workers Leaving the Museum

Project Description

Workers Leaving the Museum (2011) is a video and sculptural installation and the result of a series of investigations into conditions of “work” (artwork & workers) at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) in North Adams, MA. Inspired by the Lumières Brothers’ 1895 film, Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory in Lyon, in which the filmmakers turned their cameras on their own workers as they leave the worksite.  In the process, the worker is effectively recast as the first film actor in their moment between work and leisure time.  Workers Leaving the Museum, makes use of this reflexive metaphor: to turn the regard of the cultural institution back upon itself, and to follow museum workers beyond their work on the “production lines” of the cultural factory, to register their comportment as they are leaving the museum, and to inquire about their role in the creation of culture.

A collaboration with artist Kendra Sullivan, WLM was presented this Summer at MASS MoCA as one of three pieces commissioned for the exhibition I am Searching for Field Character, by curator Jim Voorhies of Bureau for Open Culture.  The video was intended to be a flexible, in-progress documentary, intend to form around an overarching project of interactions with museum workers and local residents.  Over four visits to the museum, new footage would be added to the video installation, allowing the piece to expand in duration and complexity with each field visit to the museum, and resulting in a stylistically hybrid composite of audio and video interviews culled over the course of nine months. For the IMA Thesis Exhibition, a re-edited video will be presented, along with other artifacts from the Summer-long exhibition, including a 15′ hand-built bamboo catamaran and sail which will act as a projection screen, a printed broadsheet with stories and instructional plans for building a bamboo kayak, and a floor-drawing in chalk of the Hoosic River — two branches of which connect at the center of the MASS MoCA campus.