The inaugural Outset Scotland Student Circle of 2017-18 was proud to provide support for feminist writer, activist and scholar Silvia Federici to visit Scotland as part of the project Workers!.
Workers! is a new film, initiated by Collective in 2016 and co-authored by Swedish artist and filmmaker Petra Bauer with sex worker led organisation SCOT-PEP. It was filmed in the Scottish Trade Union Congress, a building rooted in workers’ struggles for rights and political representation. During their one-day occupation of this institution, conversations unfold that centre the voices of sex workers demanding to be seen as experts on their own labour and lives. The collective approach developed for the production of Workers! is inspired by feminist film practitioners who emphasise the importance of making films with their subjects, not about them. Regular workshops supported this process, enabling the group to share their varied experiences of film and sex work.
Outset Scotland student patrons also took part in a day of filming for Workers!, providing crucial support, along with other allies and Collective’s network, for an important scene in the film. This opportunity was a mutual exchange and gave the students an introduction to the filmmaking process, as well as direct experience of being on a professional film shoot with Bauer and the wider film crew. Mutuality and the reciprocal exchange of knowledge is a core process in Collective’s approach to commissioning new work by artists and local community groups or constituents.
Workers! premiered at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse cinema in November 2018, followed by a panel discussion with Bauer, members of SCOT-PEP, and Federici, chaired by Collective’s Producer Frances Stacey. In advance of the premiere, Federici presented a public lecture to over 500 people at the University of Edinburgh, as a primer for the film screening. The lecture, co-presented with Talbot Rice Gallery, addressed interpersonal and institutional violence against women as discussed in Federici’s new book Witches, Witch-Hunting, and Women, which offers powerful tools for understanding collective resistance to victimisation in the past and today.
Workers! was exhibited at Collective from 13 April – 30 June 2019 in an installation that included the film, a new workers banner made with artist Fiona Jardine, and an archive of resources in Collective’s library.
Silvia Federici is a feminist writer, teacher and activist. In 1972, she co-founded the International Feminist Collective, which launched the Wages for Housework campaign. She has been instrumental in developing the concept of ‘reproduction’ as key to class relations, and central to forms of autonomy and the commons. Federici is celebrated for her decades of research and political organising, is active in anti-globalisation movements, the US anti-death penalty movement, and student and teacher struggles against the structural adjustment of African economies and educational systems. She has written numerous influential books on capitalism and feminist movements, including Caliban and The Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation (2004), Revolution at Point Zero (2012) and published this year Witches, Witch-Hunting, and Women and Re-enchanting the World: Feminism and Politics of the Commons.
Petra Bauer is an artist and filmmaker based in Sweden. Petra’s practice explores film as a space where political negotiations take place. She has exhibited internationally, most recently at the 56th Venice Biennale, 2015 and A Voice of One’s Own: On Women’s Fight for Suffrage and Human Recognition, Malmö Konstmuseum, 2014.
SCOT-PEP is a charity dedicated to the promotion of sex worker’s rights, health and dignity. They are members of the Global Network of Sex Work Project, International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe, and the UK Network of Sex Work Projects. Although primarily focussed on Scotland, SCOT-PEP is an active member of a global movement calling for sex work to be recognised as work.
Collective is a contemporary visual arts organisation that brings people together around the production and presentation of new work. Established in 1984, Collective has been fundamental to the cultural vitality of Scotland by supporting new work by artists who are at a pivotal stage in their development. They provide artists with the opportunity to make new work and audiences the chance to see it first at Collective. Their programme of exhibitions, walks, events and off-site projects presents contemporary art in all its diversity. They create opportunities for participation, mutual learning and dialogue by opening out processes of art production, connecting with other fields and encouraging new developments.