Art into society: organised labour, workplace sociology, and artmaking in 1970s Britain

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Tracking the synergies between artists concerned with examining labour as a subject in their work, and the unionisation of artists in Britain during the 1970s, this chapter explores how knowledge gathered through workplace organising and sociology fundamentally reoriented art practice during this period. It moreover examines how artists drew attention to the constructs of gender and race in their analyses of labour organising, during a decade when the trade union movement in Britain was involved in a series of key actions including the Grunwick strike of 1976–78, which was led by migrant women workers of South Asian heritage. Addressing a number of projects, from the 1974 exhibition ‘Art into Society–Society into Art’ at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, to installations, films, and performances by Rasheed Araeen, Conrad Atkinson, Felipe Ehrenberg, Margaret Harrison, Kay Hunt, and Mary Kelly, the chapter shows how artists simultaneously drew on and critiqued the processes of learning and organising developed by the contemporaneous labour movement, as they sought to develop forms of social praxis.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationArt and knowledge after 1900
Subtitle of host publicationinteractions between modern art and thought
EditorsVid Simoniti, James Fox
Place of PublicationManchester
PublisherManchester University Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781526164285
ISBN (Print)9781526164261, 9781526164278
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2023


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