In the performance 12-Hour Workday, recreated especially for the Triennial, Shvemy recreates the situation of a real workday at a clothes factory. “A person working in a sweatshop today resembles a machine that only needs to work and eat. This is the main place where poverty is propagated today, as well as being a place of subjection to the powers that have created and maintained such labor conditions,” say the artists, who have organized their own clothes manufacturing cooperative, whose labor conditions are designed to leave time for other human needs besides labor. In this action, which critiques the capitalist system of production and consumption, the group’s participants demonstrate solidarity with clothing factory workers in developing countries. For twelve hours straight, Shvemy will make the same clothes, dividing operations between themselves so as to set up something resembling a production line: extremely rapid work, one fifteen-minute lunch break, three trips to the toilet, and conversations limited exclusively to work. Every item of clothing made during the performance will be sold for the symbolic price of forty-four rubles—the average wage that clothes factory workers in Russia receive per garment. As the artists consider such labor conditions to be unacceptable, they print “Made in Slavery” on their products.
The clothes manufacturing cooperative Shvemy was established in St. Petersburg in 2015 as a dissertation project by students of the School for Engaged Art. The group currently comprises Maria Lukyanova (b. 1987, Volzhsky, Russia), Anna Tereshkina (b. 1986, Omsk, Russia), Antonina Melnik (b. 1988, Kiev, Ukraine), and Olesya Panova (b. 1988, Novosibirsk, Russia). Shvemy is simultaneously an art and an activist project, built on the model of an alternative economic structure. Its members regularly hold masterclasses on recycling and upcycling clothes. Group exhibitions include: Female TSEKH-2016, TSEKH Exhibition Space, Minsk (2016); Pakkasukko Putinia vastaan III Festival, Helsinki (2016); traveling actionist laboratory Not Peace, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev (2015–2016); MediaImpact Festival of Activist Art, Moscow (2015); and 2nd Kiev Biennial of Contemporary Art, Kiev (2015).