Immigrant Networks Exhibition

This project explores unprivileged transnational immigration, industrial architecture and the contractual conditions of labour from the perspective of immigrant subjectivity. It draws from a study of post-war immigrant workers who were recruited to work at the BHP Steelworks in Port Kembla, located on the scenic Illawarra eastern coastline of Australia, 80 kilometers south of Sydney. Like many advanced economies in northern Europe, in 1947 Australia also embarked on a massive recruitment of immigrant workers. By 1959 the Port Kembla Steelworks expanded with three new blast furnaces, a new hot strip mill, and iron ore sintering plant, and the workforce had grown to 22,884 with more than 60% post-war labour migrants. Strategies of racialization and ethnicization manifested in a hierarchy of work allocation, at the very bottom of which were post war immigrants from southern Europe (Italy, Greece and Yugoslavia). They were sent to environments of extreme heat, dust, noise, and gaseous odours; backbreaking labour, shiftwork and operations that were sometimes life-threatening. Dignity of Labour evolves from two modes of work. Firstly from the dialogues, conversation, walking and bus tours, moments and fragments of the past immigrant workers’ narratives are presented. Secondly, with the intuition to account for their phenomenal sacrifice and contribution, a photographic representation of the sequential making of a meticulously crafted model of one very tiny piece of the space of their work is shown. It seemed important to make this a thing of beauty.

Recently, Mirjana’s works experiment with the interface of art and architecture and specifically in that gap between architecture as a thing (concrete, empirical, functional) and its larger role in society (meaning, cultural value, narrative). Works in the Terrazzo series, include Venetian Blinds – inverses migratory travels as return journey of migrant houses back to Italy, and Venice. Its optical apparatus evokes migrant labour, work, uncertainty inviting alternate narratives and blindspots in Venice, and disrupting dominant frames of beauty and desire. In Terrazzo-Doge migrant housing geometries are refolded to become visual devices – a way for artists (filmmakers) to look at Venice through migrant houses.

Acknowledgement of participant workers in project:

Workshop MCCI Men’s shed Jose Acosta, Ramazan Akkoc, Jose Hugo Jara, Alberto Navarrete, Carlos Orellana, Jorge Papagallo. Workshop MWA Boris Dimitrievski, Gjorgi Ginoski, Trene Gjorgievski, Pavle Koloski, Kiro Markovski, Sisoja Poposki, Trajce Rudeski.

 

Virtual Exhibition 

Film: Work, Skilled labour, Transnationalism/Multiculturalism
Caption: Extracts of workshop with members of MWA and MCCI; descriptions of their workplace within the BHP Steelworks.
Interviewed by Mirjana Lozanovska, Cinematography by Why Documentaries, 2021

Film: Port Kembla Steelworks – Hot strip mill
Caption: Film focusing on interior operations (from documentary of BHP tour in 2021 with Steelworkers interviewed for the project Architecture and industry: the migrant contribution to nation-building 1945-1979).
Interviewed by Mirjana Lozanovska, Cinematography by Why Documentaries, 2021