After the Future…of Work


After the Future…of Work

Project synopsis

This artistic research project developed embedded collaborations between universities and underserved communities around the future of work. Key actions in the research aimed to:

  • Explore new artistic methodologies for engaging with local communities
  • Explore contributory work and alternative economies with local communities
  • Develop public events around the future of work in society
  • Develop an artistic archive of the last sewing factory in Dublin 8


  • A unique series of collaborative artistic research processes and events.
  • An archival record of the last sewing factory in the community.
  • A public dialogue around the end of work and alternative economies in a working class community.
  • A Forthcoming Publication.

The Robert Emmet Community Development Project, CREATE: The National Development Agency for the Collaborative Arts, The Graduate School of Creative Arts (GradCAM/TUD), UCD Parity Studios, Oliver Bond Community.

After the Future … of Work is an artistic research project. Artistic research is a fluid form of embedded research that enables interdisciplinary engagements between between artistic practice and academic discourse.

Central to this process was the development of an “evental methodology” which explored the potential of “events” to motivate research processes. As suggested by McKenzie & Porter, an event can be understood through its ‘intrinsic novelty-bearing capacity’, that is, for the way that something new happens in the event (McKenzie & Porter, 2016). Importantly, this novelty produces “significance”, and the “significance” that it produces cannot be treated as a simple occurrence alongside other occurrences evaluated in the social sciences (Ibid). Crucially, within this context, it is necessary to engage with events “in a manner that reveals their significance without neutralizing it?” (25) In other words, an evental approach to the study of an event must be an event and therefore, “the methods we need to adopt are not, those of the scientist or the interpreter, but of the artist”(p.34). After the Future…of Work was structured around a series of events that were “significant” for the community in which it was developed. The “significance” of these events motivated a community enquiry around the future of labour within the community. The “evental” catalyst for this project was the closure of the last sewing factory in the Dublin 8 area.

In operation in the community since 1765, the current owners of the sewing factory are there since the mid seventies and have been a rich part of the community, employing men and women locally and throughout Dublin’s inner city.

Located on Ushers Quay in the Liberties area of the city, the project aimed to:

  • Engage with a working class community on the local history and future of work
  • Develop a public dialogue around alternative economies in a working class community.
  • Develop these dialogues through a series of artistic events and engagements in response to the last sewing factory in the area.
  • Develop a ‘contributory’ research process motivated by an evental methodology, where the significance of events mobilises an interdisciplinary community of enquiry.

The project was supported by The Robert Emmet Community Development Project, CREATE: The National Development Agency for the Collaborative Arts and UCD Parity Studios.

Theoretical Research
Recent emphasis on the future of work evidences a growing concern within the global community around the social and economic implications of generalised automation. Whilst key thinkers on the “end of work” such as as André Gorz and Jeremy Rifkin have been developing an awareness of this shift for over fifty years the last five years have seen an intensification of research and public discourse on this issue.

Significantly, in 2013 Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne developed an in depth study of over eight hundred jobs that are exposed to generalised automation in the next twenty years (2013). Following these developments philosopher Bernard Steigler proposed new economies of contribution that can attend to the social implications of these shifts in a sustainable, future orientated manner. Key to Stiegler’s theory of a ‘contributory economy’ is an affirmation of the therapeutic nature of artistic practice as a form of ‘social sculpture’. It is within this context that the research project developed a social ‘aesthetic therapeutics’ to think through generalised automation and new modes of sustainable work (Stiegler, 2016).

Mackenzie , Ian & Porter. R. (2016). Evental Approaches To The Study of Events. In Pernecky, T, Approaches and Methods in Event Studies. Routledge.
Stiegler, Bernard (2016). Automatic Society. Volume 1. The Future of Work. Polity Press

Practical Research
Developed over an extended period of time (2017 – ) this project initiated long term collaborative engagements in the community around the impact of generalised automation on work/employment. The outcomes of this research were:

  • Series of collaborative research process developed with the community on the history of industrial labour in the Dublin 8 area
  • Development of four artistic events:
  1. Intermittent. Specially commissioned cello composition and public performance in the sewing factory resulting in short film.
  2. Union Banners. Production of large-scale textile work with ex- sewing factory workers, using left over textiles from the factory
  3. Object Archive: The development of an archive of industrial objects from the factory using reconditioned 3d printers.
  4. Public Conference. A public conference on the future of work developed with academic institutions and civil society networks.
  • Public discussion on alternative economies within the community

Recently the Robert Emmet Community Development Project launched its new social economy project:


Relevant Websites

After the future … of work
Robert Emmet Community Development Project
CREATE: National Development Agency for the Collaborative Arts
UCD Parity Studios

Economic, Societal Engagement, Environmental, New Knowledge, Human Capacity



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