Artist, Julie McCalden presents a new installation produced in response to the Museum of Bath at Work’s collection.
Engaging with the life of an early 20th century woman, Working from home camouflages signs of industrious activity within a domestic setting.
Embedding the tools and products of work within a turn-of-the-century dwelling, the work brings into focus everyday living and precarious labour through a historical lens.
The life of a woman working on odd-jobs to make ends meet is hidden beneath a contemporary, but traditional, wallpaper pattern. From floor to ceiling, the room is bathed in a busy grey and silver damask.
Whilst the heavy toil of the period is a thing of the past, the intersection of labour and domesticity lends the piece a contemporary resonance; as flexible, networked and freelance workers become ever prevalent in increasing insecurity, the line between work and life is blurred.
After spending 6 months researching the collection, the artist drew largely from the portrayals of life described in the Museum’s substantial oral histories archive. The work aims to reveal some of these stories, giving them new life.
Asked about the visual effect, McCalden said ‘camouflage is a recurring thread in my work. Here, I’ve used it to highlight hidden histories and the difficulties that museums face when interpreting the past; too often, history is the story of kings and queens, pharaohs and emperors, at the expense of the history of ordinary people – something the Museum of Bath at Work goes some way to rectify.
‘The existence of the museum, in a city known for leisure and tourism, is in itself revealing. Even the cities renowned Georgian terraces, with their immaculate facades and messy exteriors, show that Bath is a city of appearances.’
Working from home is funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.