Working: Carrack exhibit looks at drudgery and dreams of working hard

Sep. 01, 2013 @ 08:42 PM

Labor Day celebrates the weekend, the eight-hour day, and other benefits of the labor union movement, as well as the dignity of work. An installation at The Carrack Modern Art on view this week asks participants to ponder the meaning of work in their lives.
Visitors can “clock in” to Amanda Hakanson-Stacy’s installation “Wrk, Inc.” In a participatory piece titled “Hours Spent, Hours Recorded,” visitors may sign their names on an old-fashioned time card, and put it through the clock to begin their visit. “One of the biggest things I’ve been thinking about is when are we working,” Hakanson-Stacy said of the time clock. “Someone coming into the gallery, are they working? What value are they producing?” she said.
Another participatory piece pays homage to the water cooler. “Script 2013” has a water cooler, index cards and envelopes. Writers are encouraged to “write questions or answers for water cooler chatter” and place them in an envelope. Then, performers will take those suggestions and use them as topics for water cooler chatter.
A reception will be held today at The Carrack, and the timing to the exhibit with Labor Day is not a coincidence. “I did that on purpose,” Hakanson-Stacy said. The timing also is relevant given recent strikes and walkouts by workers at some fast-food restaurants, she said. “Wrk, Inc.” is, above all, “a celebration of the worker. We all deserve to celebrate working hard,” she said.
Hakanson-Stacy, in addition to her art, works as a graphic designer. Her feelings about the job led her to ponder issues of work, she said. She had some misgivings about the level of creativity in her job, but “now I’ve come to appreciate that much of it is attitude,” and she is grateful to have the job she has.
“Dreams 2013” is an audio feed in which Hakanson-Stacy recorded people’s dreams about their future. One of the participants said she wanted “to have a garden, and grow my own food. If I could be anything, I would be a backup dancer for Beyonce.” The project was inspired by a documentary of migrant farm workers in which a young girl talked about her dreams and ambitions, but lamented the lack of time to pursue them, the artist said. The audio recordings are “trying to capture some of what some people’s dreams are, what gets them through the day,” she said.
Not all the exhibit is installation. “Bodies 1-12” is a series of 12 ink-jet prints. Hakanson-Stacy said she found work-related pictures from magazines (football players, models walking on a runway, workers on an assembly line), scanned them, and painted them. The faces in all of the images are covered with liquid paper.
For “Cube Farm,” she folded pieces of copy paper into small cubes. Instructions show visitors how to fold the cubes, and pieces of paper are available for them to try to fold  a cube. She got the idea when she pondered very repetitive tasks, and the way they can become difficult and mind-numbing with time.
Among the other works in this exhibit are “Workers’ Skins,” a display made of old work clothes dipped in cement, and a display that uses pennies to show the difference in what most CEOs make in a minute versus what a minimum wage worker makes in a minute. And, yes, the bowl representing CEO salaries does have $116.66 cents in pennies. 

Go and Do

WHAT: “Wrk, Inc.,” an exhibit by Amanda Hakanson-Stacy
WHEN: Exhibit is on view through Saturday.
WHERE: The Carrack Modern Art, 111 W. Parrish St., Durham
ALSO: A free opening reception will be held Monday, Sept. 2, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at The Carrack. For information, visit