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Exhibit details Amazon woes

By Sam Reiver
On March 21, 2018

An art exhibit in the FAC brings attention to labor conditions at Amazon. Photo by Sam Reiver. 

Throughout March, the Castleton University Fine Arts Center is exhibiting “The Laboring Self,” works of cardboard art that represent brutal work conditions for workers who fill your Amazon.com orders.

The exhibit, initiated by artists Xtine Burrough and Sabrina Starnaman, is meant to show the parallel between the early, unregulated 19th-century industrial revolution working conditions and current conditions for workers at one of the world’s largest companies.

“The Laboring Self” consists of three interactive and hands-on works of art; “Hired Hands,” “lluminated Voices,” and “Weaving Texts: an Untitled Audio Tour.”

“Hired Hands” consists of cardboard cutouts of the hands of Amazon workers with phrases crocheted into them that express how the work impacts bodies.

Some hands express being tired and feeling only like a cog in a machine.

“It is digital slave labor” and “a modern version of a sweatshop,” art professor Oliver Schemm said.

Students can interact with the “Hired Hands” part by weaving in the way their work affects their minds and bodies.

“A lot of these are relatable,” said student Reilly Knipes, who was checking out the exhibit.

But participating in the exhibit can offer only a fraction of what these workers go through.

“Illuminated Voices” is a hands-on interactive part – literally. Visitors can place their hands on the black hand with wires connected to a box with words cut out to illuminate the box with currents from your hand to show words expressing the worker’s plight.

Deep in the jungles of amazon.com are the people who write product descriptions, chose the most aesthetic images to properly sell the product and label which tracks are on the CDs.  People work on every part of Amazon that cannot be completed by a robot – for ridiculously low wages.  The work conditions cause poor posture, arthritis, aches across the body and damage to the sanity of countless workers, according to the exhibit.

While you cannot feel the real pain and intense day-to¬-day life of these workers, you can go check out the exhibit in the FAC and at least think about it.

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