What If Seedpod - Malcolm Whittaker

Affective Labourers’ Union

Through a Seedpod residency in Castlemaine some years ago, Malcolm Whittaker developed his delightful, sensitive and humorous work ‘My Best Friend’ - a commemorative work with and for people who’d lost their dogs. ‘My Best Friend’ went on to tour to N.S.W. as part of Performance Space’s Liveworks Festival, to Melbourne as part of Field theory’s Site is Set program, and to Tasmania as part of Junction Festival.  

Malcolm returns for a What if…Seedpod residency proposing a studio/lab based on his creative process for his next project: – ‘Affective Labour Union’ 

This studio/lab could interest you if you’re 

  •     someone who is a member of a union.
    •    someone who isn’t a member of a union.
    •    someone who works.
    •    someone who plays.
    •    Artists of all practices and experience, especially those interested in conversation, collaboration and social engagement. 

Affective labour involves the invisible and immaterial work of human interaction and communication. It produces intangible feelings of support, ease, well-being, satisfaction, excitement, passion, and a sense of connectedness or community. This thinking of American political philosopher Michael Hardt was picked up on by Sydney-based artist Sarah Rodigari to argue that such affective labour constitutes the working methodologies of certain discursive, collaborative and process orientated art projects. This residency will involve research into the forms of labour that we all engage in that might be considered affective, and explore how this labour could be represented by a trade union. The residency and studio/lab will then culminate with the inaugural meeting of the ‘Affective Labour Union’. 


Malcolm’s work as an artist is typically undertaken through the engagement of participants and collaborators in the framing of play spaces that adopt social forms and rituals of popular culture and the everyday. My projects have taken the form of theatre and gallery situations, site-specific and public interventions, performance lectures, film shoots, phone calls, radio programs, teeth brushing services, walks in the park, games of chess, gift shops, letters in the mail and the borrowing of books from the library. For the last five years, with an increasing degree of seriousness, I have been running support groups for ignorance. This project, Ignoramus Anonymous, has become the centerpiece of my practice-based PhD, which explores the work the project does as a legitimate support group. 

Explore other experiments shared in our spaces and those created through Punctum’s residencies, partnerships and programs.
John Kachoyan
Sandra Minchin-Delohery
In partnership with Australian Art Orchestra