Women Sitting at the Machine, Thinking

View of an art gallery with white walls, 2 speakers stand beside a blue carpeted platform, surrounded by a black curtain.

5.1 surround sound installation, 12.30 minutes long.

A polyphonic chorus of voices read extracts from the poetry collection Woman Sitting at the Machine, Thinking, by the Marxist-feminist writer Karen Brodine. Brodine completed this work between 1978 and 1987 in San Francisco, supporting herself as a typesetter while also working as a political activist. Subtitled ‘a collection of work poems’, they trace connections between the alienation of the mechanized workday and marginalised experiences of class, gender and race.

The readers in this work speak Brodine’s passionate and fiery words over a shifting backdrop of digital tones and beats mixed from distorted field recordings of office equipment. Sometimes the voices speak in precarious harmony, as when they chant down the hours and minutes until lunch break. Other times they overlap, talk over one another, interrupt and repeat one another. Together they attempt to speak of what work takes from workers’ minds and bodies, and what it can’t: solidarity, intelligence, dreams. These things are the noise, the interference that erupts from the edges of discourse to haunt the orderly running of capital and labour. 

Extracts from Woman Sitting at the Machine, Thinking, courtesy of Red Letter Press www.RedLetterPress.org