September 13th – October 16th, 2011
The iconic Singer sewing machine has become visually synonymous with ‘the sweatshop’ and associated work environments in which historically marginalized communities are routinely exploited, underpaid, violated, and abused. Nahed Mansour’s installation takes interest in the undercurrent of connections between the often hidden and anonymous labour of this workforce and the entertainment industry, a highly visible and celebrity culture whose leading workers are constantly in the spotlight.
Standing in as the epitome of entertainment, the King of Pop Michael Jackson, is used to expose the troubling history of exploitation in relationship to racialized bodies. Jackson is a poignant example of how narratives of work and entertainment coalesce upon the physical body, especially seeing that most controversies surrounding Jackson until his death derived around his eccentric and evolving physical appearance.
In Singer, on view at Whippersnapper Gallery, a Singer sewing machine is centered in the gallery with sewing patterns, material, and threads surrounding the work area. By the street-level windows is a display showcasing several varieties of Michael’s iconic sequined white glove, all manufactured in China and purchased through
eBay by the artist. While the gloves are recognizable as a markers of Jackson’s on and off stage costume, an medical drawing of a hand with vitilgo, points to the fact that Jackson began wearing the now iconic glove in an attempt to hide the same skin condition which was responsible for the loss of pigment in his skin.
To emphasize the contrast between the invisible production and popular consumption of celebrity, a series of black lights are activated at sunset, converting the functional workshop-like atmosphere into a stage-like production of illuminated material. The installation is also animated with a sound piece that features seven of Jackson’s hits being hummed by the artist.
Nahed Mansour is a Toronto based artist whose performances, video works and installations draw on personal and historic narratives to foreground the often under-represented relationships between entertainment, labor, and race. She has an H.B.A. Degree in Semiotics and Visual Studies from the University of Toronto as well as an MFA in Open Media from Concordia University.