I think there was a lot of support — there was certainly a lot of opposition at first — but there were also people who appreciated that we cared about the craft and worked hard. I hope that comes through, that there's a lot of fun to the work. I wanted the installation to have a sense of that fun. Even in the bathroom shack, the first thing you see is a piece of graffiti from a job I was on: "Got A Problem? Call 1-900-WHO-CARES." Which I always found hilarious — that it's a 900 number and it's the wrong number of numbers. So there's a culture there that's kind of fun.
One of the pieces up at the Adams Gallery is a bound collection of court documents, which are the testimonies of women gathered during investigations into the construction industry under Mayor Dinkins in New York in the early nineties. Those interviewed reported latent harassment they'd undergone while on jobs. One woman testifies that she was groped on the job. Did anything ever come of this investigation?
I would say no, nothing really came of that. The findings and recommendations were published but not until the very end of the Dinkins administration. And then the next month Rudy Giuliani became mayor and it wasn't carried forward. So that was one of the things that compelled me to work on this installation. Not only is the material in it very moving, but it's an example where people took a huge risk to step forward and speak up and that really wasn't respected by policymakers who invited them to do that. To kind of follow through to make the changes that they could themselves see needed to happen.
One of the most powerful pieces fromOn Equal Terms is the bathroom shack. Inside a viewer will find the kind of graffiti one might find on a job — the lewdest of all being a sketch of the lower half of a woman's body and a piece of gum for a vagina, with an extinguished cigarette hanging from the gum. Was that a shack that you took off a site or did you recreate it for the purposes of the exhibit?
It was sort of a composite of things from different people's experiences that were all documented, and a lot of that is very recent -- from cell-phone photos someone had taken on a job very recently. The bubble gum and cigarette graffiti in the bathroom shack came from someone in New York's experience. The whole idea of bathroom access has been a long issue for tradeswomen [early on women were often not provided separate bathroom facilities while on jobs].
Is that still an issue — inadequate bathroom facilities, that is?
Well, people have a whole range of experiences. For some sites that might not be an issue. For some sites, it might be that you're on a high-rise job and there's a bathroom set aside for women. But lets say it's on the ground floor and you're working on the 20th floor [men, meanwhile, typically have access to bathrooms every few floors]. And you've got to be a productive worker. . .or sometimes they're not clean or there's not water to wash your hands. So there's a range of issues.
: Museum And Gallery
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