Fear of the surplus

Tyman, Derek ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4098-5954 and Rushton, Emma (2013) Fear of the surplus. [Show/Exhibition]


Fear of the Surplus was the inaugural exhibition of the Tetley Art Centre in Leeds. The solo exhibition, was a collaboration between myself and artist Emma Rushton. Responding to the context of the Tetley, which until its transformation into an art space, had been a place of work (Tetley Brewery), and current government rhetoric surrounding work and welfare the exhibition established a discursive space where conflicting ideas about labour, work systems and possible alternatives could be debated. For the exhibition, a large a hand crafted and painted ‘stage’ structure was installed in the main space. Over six weeks the stage was the setting for a programme of talks by a group of invited speakers – authors, activists, academics, theorists, organisers and campaigners, to unpick ideas of work – what it is, why and how we do it, its values and rewards and the conflicting ideas and issues which surround it. Fear of the Surplus was also understood as referring to capitals inability to address the redistribution of wealth and resources generated by all, through work, in its many different forms, waged and unwaged. The opening night of the project featured a continuous reading of Ivor Southwood’s book Non-Stop Inertia from the ‘stage’ by five actors. The following six weeks of the exhibition included talks by; philosopher Nina Power - When we say “work”, what do we mean? When we say “worker”, who do we not mean?; economist Guy Standing - The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class; academic Diane Morgan - Crisis? What “crisis”? “Living labour” NOW! ; author Lynsey Hanley – On self-improvement; sociologist Zygmunt Bauman – Dread of scarcity, Fears of abundance; anarchist Dónal O’Driscoll – When the machine took over, Ellul, Marcuse and the reshaping of work; Radical Routes organiser Cath Muller - Let’s build a co-operative society; union activist Andy Pearson – Unite the union; cultural theorist Mark Fisher – De-Privatising Stress. A new site-specific wall text Scapegoat was commissioned for the project and remained in the gallery for 6 months. The project culminated with a presentation by five actors of The Making of the English Working Class - update - readings from the classic text along with selected quotes and chapters written by speakers contributing to Fear of the Surplus.

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