The Journey from Home to Work through the Experience of the Venice Weaving Factory’s Workers

Elena Cologni | Artist and Senior Research Fellow, Cambridge School of Art, Anglia Ruskin University, UK

How does an investigation of the attachment of labour to the workplaces uncover instances of care, and indeed uncare, within power relations and place?  In the ongoing project ‘The Body of/at Work’ this was investigated through the dialogic ‘caring-with’ (Cologni, 2020) approach, including conversations and situated interventions in the form of ‘experiential exercises’. 

The attachment to place (Seamon, 1979) is central to the development of one’s own identity, and it develops in relation to others. In this context, the routes that one regularly takes in the city, the city ballets (Seamon, 1979), are indicated as one of the contributing factors (Cologni 2016/20) in this process.  “People encounter the world as they move and rest, dwell and journey” (Seamon, 1979, 139), and this is bound up in social memory, and embodied knowledge (Degnen 2015).

In the project, the workers from the weaving company, indicated how they relate to places in the city on their daily routes to work, as well as within the place of work. While archive research revealed where places of women labour once stood in the city. This research uncovered a dynamic of ever-shifting threshold (Vanore, 2021) in the caring/uncaring power dynamics in private and public space. These are understood through the feminist (Reckitt 2013) and spatial dimensions of labour and space (re)production (Krasny 2017).

The performative ‘experiential exercises’, carried out in pairs, activate the selected locations while pointing to the unfixed distance within dialogic dynamics, the ‘intraplace’ (Cologni 2016/20). This element, central in my research, was also now eerily timely, as the project was presented at the time of Covid against the restrictions on the use of public space in place (Italian Pavilion of the Venice Biennale of Architecture 2021, London Festival of Architecture, IKT congress 2021).