Millions of women participate in household labor, and the majority of them are underappreciated, underpaid, overlooked, or all of the above. This year during Art Basel, at a time when glitz and glamour are at an all-time peak, Miami Girls Foundation, in partnership with Miami Workers Center and Advocacy Partners Team, is looking to shift the narrative and bring household labor front and center. From December 4 through 9, a durational art performance by artist Ekaterina Juskowski entitled #NeverNotWorking for Untitled Art, Miami Beach, will invite viewers and participants to assess their privilege in the context of workplace exploitation.
The idea came about two years ago when Juskowski attended Femme Agenda meetings hosted by Lutze Segu for the Miami Workers Center. The meetings helped to build a multigenerational, multisectorial, and multiracial coalition of women and femmes in Miami who organized around the issue of the feminization of poverty. “I was not overly familiar with the intersectional approach, and while I might have known about most of the issues, at the end of the day, I realized a lot of my solutions, as an artist or feminist, were not relevant to the women I was sitting at the table with,” said Juskowski. “It was powerful to be around so many women, many of them coming from less privileged backgrounds than me, but way more educated on the laws and the policies and so passionate about changing things. They all look forward to something better for their community.”
From those first meetings, Juskowski, who is also the founder and creative director of Miami Girls, started to think about privilege in connection to household labor, how personal domestic labor is, and how differently it affects people of different social classes or genders. “My biggest ‘aha’ moment was the realization that women who perform household work as a job, at the end of the day go back home to their own unpaid household work. They are literally never not working.” Household labor is important work, but it is underpaid and the repetitive nature of many tasks contributes to its undervaluation and invisibility. By bringing domestic labor out of the private sphere and into the public arena, #NeverNotWorking emphasizes the work’s importance to families, communities, and economies, and celebrates the beauty of daily labor performed with care.
“The beauty of the domestic work for me is connected to hardship. I grew up in the early ’90s in Russia, and I remember when my family didn’t have a washing machine, how tedious and hard doing laundry was, and that it would last all day,” said Juskowski. “But I also remember the bliss of helping, seeing the sheets and clothes hanging, and the smell of detergent, the beauty of all of it. My installation is designed to bring people back to that feeling of bliss but to also educate them about the hardships attached to the issue.”
Celia D. Luna
The project will enlist 100 Miami-area participants to commit 30 minutes of work in Lummus Park, hanging white sheets on clotheslines, doing and undoing their labor. Each participant will leave the installation as it was found, allowing the next person to come in and perform the same task, and the community will be able to co-create and learn and enter the conversations and participate in the art. Additionally, Daniela Cava and Michael Gongora will perform during the event.
“I want to raise funds and awareness and educate people because most of us don’t think about or honor the women who perform the domestic work daily. At the same time, we’re also committed to changing this work, by personally honoring someone or taking the pledge to promote the value by raising up the community,” said Jukowski.
The donations will be used for an emergency and empowerment Thrive Fund managed by the household workers and will help women with medical emergencies, injuries, administrative disputes, and more. Already several organizations such as the Miami-Dade County Commission for Women, Women’s Fund, United Teachers of Miami-Dade, New Florida Majority, and the Dream Defenders have taken the pledge, but more participants are needed.
To take the pledge, donate, or sign up to participate in #NeverNotWorking, visit miamigirls.org.
Untitled, Miami Beach. Wednesday, December 5, through Sunday, December 9, on the beach along Ocean Drive at 12th Street, Miami Beach; 646-405-6942; untitledartfairs.com. Tickets cost $25 to $35 and are free to children under 12.