In November 2018 Collective opened their new home on Calton Hill, Edinburgh in the restored City Observatory. Collective’s recent exhibition in the City Dome was of Workers!, a new film initiated by Collective by Swedish-artist and filmmaker Petra Bauer and SCOT-PEP, a sex-worker led organisation in Scotland.
‘When we moved to our new spaceat the City Observatory, which fully opened last November, we knew we wanted to connect with different groups in our locality. We set out to rethink what an observatory could be for the city, so our commissions aim to engage with current debates and struggles, both in Edinburgh and around the world.
‘The Workers! film stemmed from us inviting Petra Bauerto visit Collective in 2015. She began a process of research around potential connections between her practice and local groups. It was as part of this that we met SCOT-PEP, an organisation that advocates for the rights of sex workers. The film is co-authored by Petra and SCOT-PEP.
‘One of SCOT-PEP’s challenges is that they struggle to be heard, because their members often can’t be visible due to the stigma attached to their work and the campaigns they’re running. This was of interest to Petra because a lot of what she does in her practice is looking at how women organise and how that is represented in history. When the term ‘sex workers’ is used, most people focus on the first word. But in order for them to be safe and have rights they campaign for, the second word needs to be brought to the fore. That’s why the title of the film is simply Workers!’
‘The way we do things at Collective is that a Producer – in this case Frances Stacey – is allocated to each project. They work with and for the artist and group, to support and allow the project to emerge. It’s a very generative process; the initial conversations are the seeds that germinate over a long period of time. Frances organised workshops and meetings throughout the project, ensuring that everyone involved was being heard, listened to and represented.
‘When we first started talking to SCOT-PEP they immediately mentioned that they had an ambition to make a banner. We were really interested in that idea and how it connects to traditional trade union banners and tapestries, but it’s not what Petra does, so they worked with the artist Fiona Jardine to make it. It’s an object that is both an artwork and a useful tool – for example, it was taken out of the exhibition to be used on May Day. There are two copies, one of which belongs to SCOT-PEP.
‘At Collective we believe art can open up a different space where observation in its widest sense can have a role. We can look at ourselves and we can look at questions in a different way – in a new light.’
Workers! by Petra Bauer and SCOT-PEP continues at Collective until 30 June 2019.It will also be screened to attendees of the A-N Assembly in Aberdeen, on 4 July.