Between 1973 and 1975 Margaret Harrison, Kay Hunt and Mary Kelly conducted a detailed study of women who worked in the Metal Box Company factory in Bermondsey, south London. Their investigation was timed to coincide with the implementation of the Equal Pay Act, which had been passed in 1970. The artists collected a vast amount of data through interviews, archival research and observation, which served as a base for the installation Women and Work 1973–5, presented in this room.
The use of research methods drawn from the social sciences as an artistic strategy is reflected by the restrained look of the work itself: black and white photographs sit alongside simple type-written texts and photocopied charts and documents. Punch cards and rates of pay record the gap in wages between men and women, and films of life in the factory show women confined to repetitive, stationary and low-skilled tasks, while men perform more physical and supervisory roles.
Women and Work uses the restrained visual language of conceptual art, but despite its neutral appearance, the materials it presents offer both objective and subjective points of view. For example, the portraits of women employees put human faces to the facts and figures, and the daily schedules stress the points of contact between the personal and the political, the public and the private life of every woman and worker.
Curated by Valentina Ravaglia.