The Margins of the Factory presents two recent projects by the Rotterdam-based duo Iratxe Jaio & Klaas van Gorkum that are motivated by their interest in art's relationship with labour. Each explores sculptural form and manufacturing processes from the perspective of artists who have not usually made objects. Jaio & van Gorkum undertake what are in part sociological investigations by documenting the local, marginal effects of the displacement of manufacturing industries over the last two generations with the emergence of the global market. Emerging from the artists' personal history and implicating the direct effects of their own vocation as well as work they ask of others, the projects are moreover complicit in asking what kind of industriousness brings value and what political life objects might have.
The exhibition opening features a performance by British “avant-folk” musician Nathaniel Robin Mann, developed in collaboration with Jaio & van Gorkum around the raw footage of Work in Progress and the tradition of work song. Mann interprets the Basque popular song “Oi Peio Peio” – a dialogue between a woman worker and her cruel boss, who insists that she carries on working throughout the night. First collected in Cancionero Popular Vasco in 1918, the song was popularized by singer–songwriter Mikel Laboa, founder of “Ez Dok Amairu” (“No Thirteen”), the cultural movement of Basque poets, musicians and artists whose name was a suggestion of sculptor Jorge Oteiza.
Central to Producing time in between other things (2011) is a selection of wooden objects made by retired factory worker Jos van Gorkum – Gorkum’s grandfather – which the artists documented in the homes of his relations, friends and former neighbours across the Netherlands. During this process, the artists located the original lathe on which these items had been crafted and began to teach themselves woodturning. The forms which they made as they worked at learning a hobby become the means to support the display of the original objects, presented alongside three videos and photography. Producing time in between other things was produced as part of the Latitudes-curated Amikejo exhibition season at MUSAC, León, in 2011, with support from the Mondriaan Fonds.
Work in Progress (2013) immerses itself in the manufacturing industry of Markina-Xemein, the rural Basque village where Jaio comes from. A video documents the mass-production of rubber car parts, following the pieces from the assembly line in a worker-owned factory to subcontracted workshops where informal workers finish them by hand. Several of these workers are employed by the artists to cast hundreds of replicas of small modernist sculptures. These are displayed on mass-produced shelving to evoke the "Chalk Laboratory" of Basque sculptor Jorge Oteiza, a fierce critic of the commodification of art. Work in Progress was produced with support from the Eremuak program of the Basque Government and from the Centrum Beeldende Kunst Rotterdam.