The initial step was the collection of documentation on the universe of working people in Brazil in the early 20th century, particularly the First Great Workers Strike, which occurred in the year 1917. The strike began in the city of São Paulo, and it was a huge mobilization initiated particularly by women workers.
What is the reverberation of that fact in today’s world, and how has the strike contributed to thinking of a contemporary work of art? These are some of the essential questions to make in the choice of historical documents whose editing and display are performed in 17 “low-maintenance” works of art that can be easily display and reproduced. They basically are books, pamphlets, and posters.
One Woman is the storyteller of the whole work. Each of the work expresses their subjectivity through an archive: historical facts are converted into personal experiences.
The produced archive is briefly a spatial, exhibition-oriented, and discursive device as part of a decolonization process.
The researcher is the artist (in action) herself, but the one who emerges is the so-called storyteller. Issues linked to interpretations and theoretical insights are artistic actions set out in the relationship between space-time-works of art. They all belong to forces pertinent to the assembly of the archive.
The number 17 is related to the year that the first major factory workers strike occurred in Brazil, and also to the seventeen produced versions of the archive itself. It was the first movement to struggle for social rights in the Republic of Brazil. Most of them were anarchists.
The Ipiranga district (along with Mooca) was the place where the workers’ strike began and where progressively started to be spread in the entire city afterward.
The protest started by those weavers in charge for the Cotonifício Crespi (textile factory) and wished for better rights such as better wages, additional night premium, and end of child labor. In July 1917, more than half of textile workers were women and children who worked under unhealthy conditions. The second factory’s strike was the Fiação, Tecelagem e Estamparia Jafet in Ipiranga.
The female factory worker wearing the checkered clothes, who I have assumed is the narrator of the archive. I saw for the first time the woman in the left corner in a historical documentary (Funerals do Comendador Jafet). I re-edit the documentary and made a video (I am that woman in the left corner of the frame).
Taking the woman out of the corner and assuming her as the narrator of my project, means speaking about myself as well. It means creating other possible narratives to the workers’ universe; it is about raising issues of gender and issues that transit between genders.
The image of the woman in the left corner of the frame carries itself the dialog with the clothes that she is wearing (the Jafet check pattern), but at the same time with her house and her relationship with her children, and so on.
This image was possible only because of the production of the documentary and that specific context: the death of an important factory worker.
Social issues in Brazil have been dealt by the police, and labor rights were non-existent. Working-class neighborhoods in São Paulo were at that time sort of small meetings. The workers created committees and workers’ circles, always at a regional level, district by district, without unity or trade union format. One of the most well-known organizations in Brazil at that time was the Workers’ Defense Committee (CDP), Edgard Leuenroth and Maria Antonia Soares were part of it. Leuenroth was a typographer and journalist who worked in various newspapers, including A Plebe. Maria Antonia Soares was a teacher in Escola Moderna and her family was a relevant referential for the Anarchist Movement in Brazil.
The committees were this meeting points where wage impoverishment used to be discussed on a regular basis. However, the movement took off just after the shoemaker Antonio Martínez was killed by the police. On July 11, 1917, 10 thousand people marched through the streets of downtown São Paulo. The march designed a particular path: from downtown São Paulo to the Cemitério do Araçá where the protesters ended their march just in front of Martínez’s grave. The strike continued for many days and many other events took place all- over the city, such as the market looting and the rallies.
There were many women among the anarchists. Beside the main agenda’s issue – the labor impoverishment – they were used to speak on other essential rights such us the divorce and the virginity (Margereth Rago ). They have been the first women to talk about sexual and reproductive rights in Brazil.
Three large rallies happened that July: one in Lapa, one in Largo da Concordia and one in Ipiranga. After the rallies, the bosses pretended to accept the claims, and the strike thus ended. However, when the workers re-started working, they the paid the consequences being arrested, killed or deported.