CREATIVE TIME: Tali Weinberg

On October 12, the Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley and the Curatorial Practice at the California College of the Arts are partnering to host a live-streaming of the Creative Time Summit, an annual conference in New York that brings together cultural producers–including artists, critics, writers, and curators–to discuss how their work engages pressing issues affecting our world. To jump-start the conversation in advance of the event, attendees have been asked to submit a paragraph on a keyword associated with one of the summit themes: Inequities, Occupations, Making, or Tactics. This posting is by Tali Weinberg, MFA Candidate at the California College of the Arts.
Keyword: Making
On September 12th I woke up to the news that hundreds had died in a factory fire in Pakistan. It took me a moment to realize that the report was not about the all-too-similar tragedy that took place 101 years earlier in New York.  The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire killed 146 workers, mostly young women from immigrant families who either burned or jumped to their death from the 8th floor of the building since the workers had otherwise been locked in. In Pakistan as well, many workers—who had been making consumer goods bound for export—jumped to their deaths from one of the few windows that wasn’t barred shut. Workers later reported that managers actually prevented people from leaving so that they could save the clothing destined for European consumption. Feminist geographer Melisa Wright writes of the “myth of the disposable third world woman… who, through the passage of time, comes to personify the meaning of human disposability…[even as] she simultaneously produces many valuable things with her labor.” What could be more proof of the perpetuation of this myth than these continuing acts of violence against laborers around the world?[1]
Scholar Ethyl Brooks cautions against the problems that arise in representing laborers in the anti-sweatshop movement—representations that tend to reproduced the problematic social relations within global capitalism that they otherwise denounce while perpetuating race, class, and gender stereotypes through the images and narratives of workers portrayed as victims.[2] In my art practice I struggle over how to address the entanglement of labor and violence against women without reproducing the social relations that drive exploitation. As a maker of objects, this raises any number of questions: How are tactics shaped by gender? Who is able to put their bodies on the line? And what line? What does it mean to consider material production as an activist sphere? What does one learn from the bodily experience of making? What possibility comes from transforming the intangible and incomprehensible (economy, struggle, violence, pain, grief) into something tactile?
In her recent ethnography, Thuy Linh Tu suggests that there are possibilities for moving beyond Brooks’ concerns: “There is much to be gained in recognizing that creative workers share some commonalities with supposedly noncreative workers. This recognition makes it possible to see interconnections, to imagine a common cause and perhaps even collective action. [S]howing us how the lines that divide us can move… lead[s] us to new languages and perhaps even new politics. At the very least, they can show us what is to be gained by forging intimacies.”[3] As I further mine this idea in my own work, I am interested in hearing the responses of colleagues.

[1] Wright, Melissa W. Disposable Women And Other Myths Of Global Capitalism. CRC Press, 2006
[2] Brooks, Ethel C. Unraveling the Garment Industry: Transnational Organizing and Women’s Work. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis. 2007.
[3] Tu, Thuy Linh Nguyen. The Beautiful Generation: Asian Americans and the Cultural Economy of Fashion. Duke University Press, 2010. Pg 62