Collaged Timecards by Elaine Luther, 2021

“Clocking in for Unpaid Labor/Time Cards for Mother,” collaged time cards made by Elaine Luther in October 2021 at the Grand Marais, MN Independent Artist Residency. Part of a series of 7.  From L to R: Mending and Emotional Labor, Childcare, Escape.

How to Participate
Clocking in for Unpaid Labor is a new public participation art project where people are invited to collage, sew, quilt, paint, whatever, a time card in order to express something about the unpaid labor that they do.

Whether that work is emotional labor, housework, childcare, unpaid aspects of freelance work, those new parking meter machines*, whatever unpaid labor you do, make a timecard about it.

Be sure to put your name and email address/some contact information, and social media handle (mostly IG) on the back of the time card.  This project is open to all genders and all forms of unpaid labor.

There are no restrictions on type of media.  Ideally, art will not extend more than two inches beyond the time card itself, and some portion of the time card should remain visible.

Get a free time card by mailing a business sized self addressed envelope to:

Elaine Luther
PO Box 5292
River Forest, IL. 60305

International folks can do Venmo or something instead, use the web form to contact me.  (Or maybe you could find them on eBay and share with your friends?)

Free card, just pay postage.

What will be done with the cards? I’ll share them in blog posts, on social media, and attempt to get shows of them in the future in public spaces such as libraries and art galleries.

Make art on your time card and mail it back, that’s it!  Rolling deadline, but artists need a deadline, so let’s say mail back your card within 30 days.

Time cards are copyrighted, that’s why I can’t just scan it and make it a pdf for you to download it.  (I wonder if it would fall under fair use if someone shrank a time card and made a miniature version for a show in a micro gallery?)

*How are those Pay to Park machines different from an old fashioned parking meter and how is that shadow work?  In the past, you’d get out of your car and put some quarters in the meter that was right there and move on with your day.  Now, you have to walk some distance (discriminatory against anyone with a mobility issue, pregnant women, people with small children) and stand in line in order to use an annoying, badly designed machine.  It takes longer.

It’s shadow work because you’re doing work that someone else used to get paid for.  Shadow work is a term coined in 1981 and later was the title of an essay and then a book by Craig Lambert.  The Subtitle is “the unpaid, unseen jobs that fill your days.”

More on Shadow Work

Shadow work is when you fill out all those forms for the doctor’s office online, before your appointment.  It’s when you do self-checkout. Both are jobs that somebody else used to get paid to do.  It’s those darn Pay to Park Machines.

Ghost Prints and Shadow Work is the title of my May show at The Compassion Factory in May in Brookfield, IL. My timecards will be in the show and will be for sale.

There will be more about labor in the show – invisible labor, emotional labor, and shadow work.  I’ve been thinking about labor and making art about various forms of labor, mostly women’s work, for years, starting with my Our Ladies of Perpetual Housework, and then more recently More Work for Mother.  It’s a big theme with me.

Further Reading

If you’re a mother, you might like to read the book The Price of Motherhood, which is a bit depressing but informative.