THE EMPOWERMENT ARCHIVE
a sculptural and performative social practice since 2022
participant preparing salt dough during the workshop, VOGA Art Project Bari 2022.
unpaid labour and the witch-hunts
Silvia Federici describes in Caliban and the Witch that the loss of the “Allmende” (the medieval commons-tradition) and a capitalist society based on wage labour leads to a expropriation and exploitation of female and colonised bodies. As a result of the abolition of the “Allmende” and the introduction of wage labour, female labour (mostly reproductive labour) became unpaid labour and women were driven into isolation within their nuclear families instead of sharing the reproductive labour time in corporation with other women. What followed was the institutionalization of rape and prostitution, as well as the heretic and witch-hunt trials, burning and torture as a consequence of the loss of the Allemende (as Federici states).
publication, first edition of The Empowerment Archive, Bari 2022, in collaboration with VOGA Art Project Bari.
MASSA is a workshop in collective pasta making (salt dough). While preparing the paste together we have a talk about empowerment situations. The salt dough comes as a metaphor for women's unpaid reproductive and care work, but also in the image of women doing reproductive labour together. That is a moment - and history confirms this - that becomes an opportunity to meet, confront and empower.
The workshop starts with the sharing of 'cultural capital' - the artist presents a lecture performance focused on the historical moment of the transition to early modern capitalism, and the changes it brought to women's living situation. In fact, the shift of women's reproductive work to an exclusively private dimension produced a progressive isolation of women and deprioritised situations of emancipation and empowerment that had previously found space in shared work. As the “Allmende” was the place for women to meet and exchange their ideas, problems and sorrows, the workshop is a contemporary ritual, that reenacts medieval women´s commons-traditions. During the witch-hunt trials such meetings were falsely identified as coven (Hexenzirkel). Women met up to share and exchange secretly what they had shared openly for so many centuries within the “Allmende”.
While kneading, participants ware asked to share a moment of empowerment situations in which they felt discriminated against, suppressed or left alone, and then trying to free themselves from what has been written by society and history.
The reference point is the fist as a symbol of unity and solidarity. This project starts with the image of the weak fingers that unify for creating something powerful. The imprint of the fist is a touchable documentation of the conversation situation. The act of transforming the plasticine with one´s own fist becomes a performative gesture. The plasticine object becomes a sculpture. The fists are like portraits and serve as documentation of those who participated in the workshop. The fist can remove the idea of gender and age, it remains anonymous. The fingerprint, on the other hand, is a very personal, private thing, but salt dough doesn't leave a perfect impression because it changes. What remains is not the fist but the negative, the empty space inside the fist, what you clench: it is violent in the sense of the revolution you decide - to represent a free choice.
The project creates a haptic archive of fists, which are representing personal empowerment situations. The first edition of the Empowerment Archive was published by VOGA, Bari 2022 in form of a mini-fanzine.