Kay Abude presented her work ‘Production Line’ on Bandra Promenade in North Mumbai over two afternoons and evenings as part of the [en]counters program. Over three hours between 5pm and 8pm an alternating and mutable workforce sit at four workstations to turn locally sourced textiles into neatly stacked bundles of ‘money’.
The task at the first workstation is to mark the fabric into sections the size of the 100 Rupee note; the second to cut down the marked material into separate notes; the third to count them into bundles of twenty five, trimming any loose threads; and the fourth to stitch each bundle together and stack them.
Abude’s installation employs objects and structures that feature in the everyday life of Mumbai. The ‘notes’ are organised in takeaway food containers, generic fluorescent office lights provide illumination as day becomes night, and are hung from the bamboo frameworks used to shade local market stalls from the sun. The workers wear locally produced uniforms designed by Abude in response to those worn in Mumbai service industries, and curious audience members are encouraged to don them and join the performance as a worker.
The piece raises questions around power and labour relations, along with those around the value of labour and how it is inflected when an artist is involved. The use of local fabric refers back to the importance of the Mumbai textile industry to the city’s growth and development, as a cornerstone of the local economy historically, along with the waterfront industries which the work echoes in its situation facing directly out to the Arabian Sea.
The Australian component of the [en]counters program was curated by Simon Maidment and received support by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, the Victorian Government through Arts Victoria, and the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne and Last Ship, Julius Macwan Institute. It was presented by Satellite Art Projects in partnership with Asia Arts Projects and ArtOxygen.