The Workers project was conceived in 2004 as a constantly evolving, long term endeavor and it has been significantly transformed, expanded and reformatted for each exhibition context. While Davenport makes reference here to the disappearing Sergei Tretyakov model of long term observation in social documentary, the combination of quasi-documentary and straight documentary narratives, digital manipulation and deadpan humor in each variation of Workers offers an utterly contemporary critique of our globalized culture —successively tender, tragic and hilarious.
John Zeppetelli writes: “Workers is a speculative, multi-screen take on labor and globalization … an ambitious media installation which laterally tackles the representation of labor and issues arising from globalization by connecting Norwegian workers to their out-sourced Chinese counterparts in a seamless, multi-screen DVD environment. At the centre of this moving frieze of animated portraits is an image of a factory where workers gather at the gates or rocket into outer space — referencing two iconic films from early cinema: Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory and A Trip to the Moon by Georges Méliès.”
For the installation at Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery, four elements are presented for the first time. A separate screen in the exhibition space is dedicated to the DVD entitled—Credits. This piece is dominated by an animated sequence of large, vivid text which names all the people who have participated so far in the production of Workers. With the Trailer photographs, each image presents the frame-by-frame layout of a non-existent Workers film trailer and is a structural reversal of how the still photography functions in the DVDs. Like many mainstream previews which promote future films, the majority of frames in the Trailer photographs differ considerably or do not appear at all in the Workers DVDs.
The evolving Workers piece has been presented to international acclaim at the 2007 Istanbul Biennial and in the current exhibition Re-enactments (with Stan Douglas, Harun Farocki, Ann Lislegaard, Paul Pfeiffer, and Kerry Tribe) at DHC/ART Montréal; previous variations were presented at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and at the Frognerparken in Oslo, 2005. Davenport’s earlier exhibitions include: the 25th Biennale de Sao Paulo, 1st Triennial of Photography and Video at the International Center of Photography, NY and Urban Dramas at the de Singel International Kunstcentrum in Antwerp. In 2005, her series Campus traveled to multiple venues in the UK and was widely reviewed. She is the 2007 recipient of a DHC/Art Grant and the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for a collaborative project with Tom McDonough. www.nancydavenport.com
Excerpted text from: John Zeppetelli, Re-enactments, DHC/ART Montréal [Exhibition brochure], 2008