Under the surface: reflections on workers’ narratives from below the minimum wage

Sinfield, David Lewis
Ings, Welby
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Master of Art and Design
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Auckland University of Technology

This research project is concerned with workers’ narratives, specifically those who have been employed in paid work below the national minimum wage in New Zealand.

As a graphic designer who has direct experience of exploitation through employment, I am interested in researching the subjective experience of underpaid workers in New Zealand. In doing this I have sought to creatively synthesize experiences into artworks that provide a deeper insight into the impact of underpaid work. Through this investigation I have attempted to contribute to a broader discussion of underpaid work than what is currently provided, through the analysis of statistical data.

In undertaking this project I have also been concerned with investigating new potentials in serigraphy (a graphic medium traditionally associated with working-class politics). I have inquired into how it might be used to create a visual ‘voice’ for contemporary workers’ narratives.

Accordingly, this project has employed audio recordings of three personal stories. The research has led to the production of a series of serigraphic prints that artistically interpret the journeys and experiences of the participants. These images sit in discourse with looped audio excerpts of their recorded interviews. In this approach, narratives of marginalisation that have often been muted through their presentation as written records, have been re-conceptualised as an artists' images, with which the recordings are in discussion.

Narrative inquiry , Working below the minimum wage , Serigraphic printing , Graphic design , Workers’ rights , Large format screen printed posters , Semiotics of the working class , Reflexivity as an indicator of the voice of the worker
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