Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search


What the banners of collective action say about us

What the banners of collective action say about us, and finding the Red Aunt

What the banners of collective action say about us, and finding the Red Aunt

Campfire Cognitive Dissonance, Fiona Jack (2019)

(A blanket embroidered with images that have featured in trade union banners over the last 150 years.)

The banners of social activism provide a rich tapestry of our political past and present, and we need to remember them, suggests Fiona Jack in her artworks on display at the Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt.
She is one of 14 artists who will feature in the exhibition, The Future of Work, which reflects on and explores the changing nature of our working lives and the ever-increasing impact of automation and globalisation.

Ms Jack is a conceptual artist and Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Creative Arts and Industries at the University of Auckland, whose work explores socio-political issues, often looking to the past to explore the present.

For some years she has explored banners as identifiers and gathering devices for groups of people united for collective action.

Banners say a lot about us, she says, as a form of art and as pointers to our social and political histories. Her own fascination with them started when she was at home with a baby in 2013 and wanted to “make stuff” in a way that was baby-friendly. “So I started stitching.”

“At the same time, I had a necklace made of a medal that was awarded to my great-great-grandfather, which is engraved on the back, ‘Awarded to J Jack and Sons for Biscuits.’”

“The Glasgow Bakers Association had their annual awards,” she explains. “And this is a beautiful cast metal medal with a little loop on it, engraved with these traditional trade unions symbols.”

She began researching the visual representations of trade unionism and social activism found in banners, also began making banners for art, and for activist groups.

The Future of Work will include her work, Campfire Cognitive Dissonance, a blanket embroidered with images that have featured in trade union banners over the last 150 years.

“It’s an unhappy collection in some ways, and raises questions about the precariousness of work these days.”

The piece will not be hung on the wall, but people can wrap it around themselves or sit on it. “I want it to be used,” she says.

Mum, Helen & Me, a “project toward publication and an artist book made in the process of trying to get it published” will also feature in the exhibition.

The work is based on her great-great-aunt, Helen Crawfurd, known as the “Red Aunt” in the family.

Ms Jack found out about her in recent years and also that she had written an autobiography that was held in the Marx Memorial Library in London.

It’s the story of a Scottish suffragette and one of the founders of the Communist Party in Scotland who, among other ventures, travelled by boat, dinghy and troop-train to visit Lenin in the early 1900s.

“Contemporaries of hers who did less than she did became national heroes because they were aligned to the Labour Party, which has a vested interest in making their history significant. But many believe that people like Helen have fallen away from history because they were communists.”

The third piece on display is a banner, onto which the word ‘tiresome’ has been stitched, over and over again.

“It’s really a personal response that came about while I was making all these banners for social groups.

I was thinking about the title of Ranginui Walker’s book, Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou - Struggle Without End. And about these activists who are tirelessly working through the same problems, relentlessly activating for social change.”

On a more upbeat note, she recalls coming to the end of her great-great-aunt’s autobiography. “I was struck by the last sentence – ‘The world is ours. Let us go in and possess it.’

The Future of Work, 3 August to 17 November


© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Campbell on: the local body election result in Wellington

For obvious reasons, politics is more of a big deal in the capital city than anywhere else in the country. Even so, fewer than four in ten eligible voters bothered to vote in Saturday’s local body elections in Wellington (turnout 39.66%).

Even less was felt to be at stake this time around than in 2016, when 45% of the electorate voted Justin Lester into the mayoralty.

To put it mildly, the Lester-led Council failed to live up to expectations. Lester will be remembered mainly for the fact that somehow, he managed to lose this election. . More>>


Could Do Better: Post-Sroubek Review Of Deportation Info

Ms Tremain acknowledges that the review highlighted some aspects of the process that can be improved and makes five main recommendations to strengthen the existing processes for preparing files for decision-makers. Those recommendations are: More>>


Gordon Campbell: On A New Book On The Leaky Homes Scandal

We all know that journalism is short of cash and under pressure from the speed, brevity and clickbait pressures of the 24/7 news cycle… but hey, given the right subject and a sufficiently stubborn journalist, it can still surpass most of the works of the academic historians... More>>

Regulation: Review Finds NZTA Road Safety Failings

The independent review, carried out by consultant agency MartinJenkins, lists at least 10 reasons for the failures including the agency being focused on customer service at the expense of its policing functions. More>>


Rod Carr: Climate Change Commission Chair-Designate Announced

Climate Change Minister James Shaw has today announced the appointment of Dr Rod Carr as Chair-designate for the Climate Change Commission. More>>


Compliance Complaints: 'Putting Right' Holidays Act Underpayment In Health

The Government is putting right a decade’s worth of underpayment to nurses, doctors and other health workers, says Health Minister Dr David Clark. More>>


IPCA: Disasterous Police Pursuit, Excessive Use Of Dogs

At no stage did Police follow the correct procedure for the commencement of a pursuit... A Police dog handler used his dog to help with the arrest of two of the young people. One suffered injuries resulting in his hospitalisation, and the Authority found that the use of the dog was an excessive use of force. More>>


‘Hard Place To Be Happy’: Report On Youth Residential Care

Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft says the report, A Hard Place to be Happy, contains important challenges from children and young people, aged 9 to 17, about their experiences in care and protection residences. “I found this report extremely difficult to read, and I think most New Zealanders would too.” More>>

Africa And Middle East Refugees: 'Family Link' Restriction Removed

The founder of the Double the Quota campaign has applauded the coalition government for Friday’s announcement that a discriminatory policy would be removed. More>>





InfoPages News Channels