When Taylor Reudavey talks about her impressions of employment agencies, she uses descriptors like Kafkaesque, humourous, absurd, sad and tragi-comic. While fortnightly visits to a job centre are mandatory for the artist to keep her unemployment allowance, the centre has now become a space that she’s creating work about.
Reudavey’s upcoming show, I Know How Hard It Can Get, at Moana Project Space looks at the experience of being a jobseeker on welfare support. The show also considers our overall welfare system and both the sympathetic and the contemptuous voices that surround this system.
Reudavey has found the Australian government’s jobactive program to be harsh and unforgiving. “It’s this whole ideology that implies that you’re unemployed because you’re not trying hard enough or you’re not presenting yourself well enough,” says the artist. “When, really, the issue is that there aren’t any jobs.”
Joking that her appointments at the job agency are equivalent to an arts residency, Reudavey’s exhibition is fuelled by her experience. This is shown across two films, a sound piece and furniture which would look at home in the unemployment agencies she has attended. “Everything in the space is loosely based on the things I saw and experienced while I was in a job centre,” explains Reudavey. “The idea of the show is that it’s replicating the emotional atmosphere of a place that is as hostile and depressing as a job centre.”
While Reudavey’s thoughts about the jobactive program are quite clear, the artist has ensured her show also includes multiple viewpoints on our welfare system. “The show has several competing voices and they’re all asking for their own kind of sympathy and asking people to believe what they’re saying,” says the artist. “I’m interested in how certain voices will present themselves as being authoritative and authentic and using that as a way of presenting themselves as trustworthy.”
By including viewpoints she both agrees and disagrees with, Reudavey is hopeful that the exhibition will spark conversations around the experiences of people with the jobactive program and Centrelink, as well as Australia’s overall welfare system.