'Work Life Balance'2019
‘Work Life Balance’ has been made in response to items in the collection at Kelham Island Museum, Sheffield. It was part of the group exhibition by the collective Material Voice - 'What is the Matter? Materials, Commodities, Narratives'. The work reflects upon working life in the 19th and early 20th century, when long hours and unhealthy conditions for most meant that work impinged on every aspect of home life. Brent is interested in the pressures on those involved in the mass production of goods, generating wealth for the few, whilst being unable to afford to buy the products they made. Whilst working conditions in more affluent parts of the world have improved, industrialised mass production and related poor working conditions have not disappeared. In today’s globalised economy, cheap labour fuels our consumer habits, as we purchase and accumulate more commodities than ever before.
In Dixon’s workshop at Kelham Island Museum, Brent placed a 1.6m tall sculpture featuring a bunch of knife blade blanks, scaled up to the size of a human body. Made from laser cut steel sheet, hand cut acrylic and Valchromat sheet, the bundle of forms hangs on a chaotic yet balanced structure of welded steel rod.
Accompanying the sculpture is an installation of nearly 200 table knives, borrowed from the Hawley Collection, which fills the kitchen of the 1916 house. The installation references the infiltration of working life into the domestic sphere and provides a mass where there would have been an absence – despite spending a large portion of their lives makes these objects, many skilled cutlers and handle makers would not have been able to afford to buy them.