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Hard Work

The idea that hard work will be rewarded with success is so pervasive that it seems impossible to challenge, as if it was a fixed and permanent feature of the social world rather than an ideology that didn’t exist before the mid-20th Century. Even at the point of its invention, ‘meritocracy’ was coined as a term of derision.

The term ‘social mobility’ refers the idea that those from disadvantaged backgrounds who possess raw intelligence and a willingness to work hard can change their socio-economic situation for the better. To function effectively, social mobility depends on equality of opportunity, and is therefore reliant on the dismantling of systems of inherited privilege that are often major factors in an individual’s socio-economic success. The effectiveness of social mobility is measured by the difference between the socio-economic status of a person and that of their parents. It follows that in order to be successfully socially mobile, there must be some level of estrangement from one’s beginnings. It can become uncomfortable and sometimes undesirable for the socially mobile to leave their roots behind and assimilate to their newly attained class status.

This work consists of a series of stickers that feature phrases and images that form part of the discourse around meritocracy and social mobility. The slogans on these stickers relate to the ideology of meritocratic social mobility. Foregrounding the importance of individualism to the concept of merit, the stickers highlight neoliberalised connotations of social mobility and the types of subjectivity this encourages. Their form, as stickers, allows them to be organically dispersed, carried by an informal collective of audience members who might stick them on their belongings, in public spaces, or on each other. This disorganised group dispersal forms an attempt to undo the inherent individualism of meritocratic thinking. Viewers come across the stickers as visual litter in the wild, separated from their context, which highlights and identifies this otherwise unnoticed yet omnipresent ideological standpoint.

Available in unlimited edition via the artist.

Exhibition History
Launched December 2023
Title: Hard Work
Year: 2023
Media: Laserprint on pre-cut sticker sheet. 12 stickers of 30mm diameter.