Condé / Beveridge

The modern Canadian Labour Arts movement has its roots in Toronto with the formation of the Labour Arts and Media Working Group in 1984. From the beginning, photographic artists Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge formed the core of the movement both in theory and in action.

Don Bouzek has collaborated with them on two types of projects. For GZP, they created projections for a series of Toronto shows, including The Fessenden Animation and Hitting Home. In return he supported the staging of the actors in a number of photo series, including No Immediate Threat. After Don move to Edmonton, they collaborated on one major project.

Class Maintenance, 2003 – Artists’ description

[www.workingimage.ca look under Photo Works / Labour / Local 474]

Virgilio Paz in front of the Art Gallery of Alberta

In June 2002, Condé and Beveridge met with elementary and secondary school custodians in Edmonton. Together with theatre director Don Bouzek, they conducted a series of visual workshops that are the basis for the five images. The project was commissioned by the Edmonton Art Gallery, and produced in collaboration with CUPE, Local 474.

The union members acted out the stories they wished to tell. The main story that evolved from the workshops was the sense of responsibility and commitment the workers have towards the children for whom they maintain the schools. As custodian Trevor Stewart said: “One of the things that may not be in a lot of job descriptions is tying Johnny’s shoes and helping Mary with her coat. It’s as much about comforting a child as it is about cleaning.”

The artists photographed five of the workers, who have their portrait combined with an image of themselves acting in stories that centred on their relationship to the children they clean and care for. Sets were then built in Toronto and the artists brought in local school children to play the role of the kids in the photographs. The images move from kindergarten through to high school graduation. The final images were assembled digitally and exhibited in the gallery and as backlight images in the Edmonton LRT transit station next to the gallery.