Katherine Murphy: Decay
30.06.2016 – 17.09.2016
Water running over stone will, over time, wear a path, though water is no match for stone in terms of durability, it plays the long game, and little by little the repetitious act of the moving water molecules breaks down the stone, creates decay, forms a path of least resistance, forms a river. When one considers the daily tasks of the minimum wage worker, comparisons can be drawn; placing a leaflet in a magazine, placing a leaflet in a magazine, placing a leaflet in a magazine, over a hundred an hour, every hour; replacing size 22 label with size 12, replacing size 22 label with size 12, replacing size 22 label with size 12, over a hundred an hour, every hour; answering directory enquiry calls, answering directory enquiry calls, answering directory enquiry calls, over a hundred an hour, every hour; washing egg and bacon debris off a plate, washing egg and bacon debris off a plate, washing egg and bacon debris off a plate, over a hundred an hour, every hour.
The human side of the story, which we all invest so much in, erases the memories of the work, provides the balm for the cuts of work, the work that causes the wear and tear, the work that wears the stone into a path into a river. Hence, when I discuss the world of work and labour, I concentrate not on the human story but on the work and its effects, the universality of the experience of exchanging labour for wage.
I have always used labour as a material in my work; to fulfil and thus expose alienating work tasks, to explore a work system, to discuss value given to different workers’ time. Often it is my repeated labour that creates the work, hours of small labours, repeated, daily, weekly, monthly, creating a vast visceral display. Here, I have again used repetitious labour as a material, but fixed it in place, repeated it in place; in this way I create and utilise a new material, that of decay. Some of the works are comprised simply of labour and paper, the paper is the support for the labour, exposing the decay. Decay speaks to the experience of such work acts on the human body, the human psyche.
I began my working career aged thirteen as a pot washer, this was before the introduction of a minimum wage, and I was paid very little for giving up quite a lot. My relationship with work carried on in this vein for a very long time whilst I tried to improve my lot through education. It is these experiences of exchanging labour for money, always paid the minimum legal requirement or not much more and valued the same, that I draw on for my work. Constantly fascinated by the fundamental question of why we work, why it is so intrinsic to the human experience, what purpose does it serve, for we all do it. I am not an artist because of these experiences rather I am an artist despite them.
Katherine Murphy holds a Masters in Fine Art from The Slade School of Fine Art; she lives and works in London, UK.