Clean Labour by Brendan Fernandes

Soo Ryon YOON

Research output: Journal PublicationsReview articleOther Review


Sociologist Rachel Sherman observes that guests’ behaviors and routines very much affect housekeeping and turndown staff attending to luxury hotel rooms, even if they perform their work invisibly and without much direct interaction with customers.1 Workers adjust themselves according to the range of traces left by different guests—soiled sheets, a clogged bathtub, displaced furniture pieces—which constantly shape and dictate the staff’s pace and movements as they proceed around a room. This variability disrupts the carefully choreographed, assembly-line-like movements involved in making beds or vacuuming floors as efficiently as possible so as to maximize the workers’ output or “room quota.” Sherman’s findings suggest that the guests’ absence itself governs the flow and rhythms of hospitality.

New York and Chicago-based artist Brendan Fernandes explored this question of in/visibility of hospitality labor and the uneven relationship between workers and guests in his performance piece Clean Labour (2017), in which he drew parallels between hospitality labor and the work of performance. Performed across three different guest rooms and a rooftop lounge in the Wythe Hotel—a factory-turned-boutique hotel located on the Williamsburg waterfront in Brooklyn, New York—Clean Labour invited a group of approximately thirty audience members to watch six dancers (Christopher DeVita, Charles Gowin, Madison Krekel, Erica Ricketts, Oisín Monaghan, and Khadija Griffith) shadow three cleaning and maintenance staff (Angie Sherpa, Tenzin Thokme, and Tenzin Woiden) on March 5, 2017.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018

Bibliographical note

Performance review


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