Lu Heintz is an artist, educator and feminist collaborator currently based in Providence, RI. Through multiple points of entry- textiles, sculpture, video, sound, installation, performance, paper works, and writing- her transdisciplinary practice examines personal experiences on sociocultural scales. She has received awards from the National Endowment of the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, The International Sculpture Center and the Sustainable Arts Foundation. Lu balances her artistic practice with a commitment to feminist pedagogy and scholarship and is an Associate Artist Researcher for the Digital Institute of Early Parenthood (UK). Her research focuses on embodied experiences of undervalued work- particularly feminized endeavors of motherwork, carework, maintenance, service work, textile production and sex work- observing how gendered myths and structures accumulate from the domestic into commercial and industrialized contexts. She has recently been awarded residencies at MASS MoCA, Vermont Studio Center and Arts, Letters and Numbers (NY).
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Monique Wittig wrote “Every system of domination establishes divisions at the material and economic level.” Capitalism relies on exploitation- on forms of work that are unpaid, marginalized, devalued and not considered work. There is a systematic separation between the wage and work, so that many forms of hard work are low-waged or unwaged. Interrelating productions of identity and consequent meanings- gendered and racialized, regional and ethnic- support each other inside these capitalist imperatives.
The sound piece 'Professions' started out as an investigation in the mutual constitution of gender roles and economic roles, but it became a more complex inquiry into layered factors of identity-construction. Exploring the medium of sound, I pose the question- "What do you do for work?" to strangers in public. In the recordings, people talk about- profess- what they do for work, offering concise job titles or involved descriptions of daily tasks. The voice is a trace signifying the absent body. There are no visual signifiers but the listener perceives differences through voice and language- timbre, pitch, accent, dialect, slang and language proficiency. Some voices are assertive, others humble; some laugh, some stutter.
The listener is unable to apply immediate visual categorization, but recognizing this differentiating compulsion I require and train listening in new ways, selecting anti-nominal groupings based on idiosyncratic behaviors. Episodes are arranged not only by content but also by performance- comparing delivery, confidence, projection, enunciation, terminology, inflection and pace. These unexpected groupings and parings point to the very habit of categorization itself.
The relationships noticed between the voices cannot be understood through any singular category- like gender, class, age, origin, ethnicity- but are always multifold, demonstrating how categorizations may rigidly control bodies but can never fully describe actual experience. The work aims to confuse and elucidate how complex webs of differences create subjects within the drudgery of an economically determined neo-liberal world. Personalities are constituted by, constituting and defying social categorizations. Each person’s profession of their labor is unique, yet with each individual we sense how social status and self-regard are occupationally produced.