born in Dresden/Germany in 1981, 1999–2005 studies in history and
art at TU Dresden/Germany, 2006–2011 studies in interdisciplinary
painting, performance & analogue and digital imagery at the Academy
of Fine Arts Dresden/Germany, University of Leeds/Great Britain and
at Zurich University of the Arts/ Switzerland.
Since 2011, she has worked freelance as an artist, teacher for the mediation of artistic practices,
curator and exhibited in Germany,
Switzerland, Great Britain, Poland, Czech Repu blic, Macedonia, Spain, Israel,
Argentina, Vietnam, Brazil and Mozambique.
Her work alternates between installation, photography, video,
performance, object and drawing.
Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, Goethe Institute
Brazil, Goethe Institute Mozambique, GIZ,
Rede Hopem Maputo, Museo de História
Natural Maputo, Freie Universität Berlin, Verdi,
Gerda Weiler Stiftung, Arbeitsgemeinschaft
literarischer Gesellschaften und Gedenkstätten
e.V., Internationale Gisela Elsner Gesellschaft
Hamburg, Tiefbauamt Dresden, Isha L'Isha –
The Haifa Feminist Center, Kulturförderung des
Freistaat Sachsen, riesa efau. Dresden,
Prefeitura Recife, Citizen Art Days Berlin
“I want to fight where life is.”
Laudatory speech for the prizewinner of the 2018 RosaKunstpreis art prize: Karen
by Anja Eichhorn, art historian and member of the board of trustees for the inaugural
RosaKunstpreis art prize
In the artistic work being honoured today entitled ‘Doing the Dirty
Work’, Karen Packebusch uses art to question the work of migrant
women in private households. These days, this forms part of the organisation of reproductive work,
also known as care work, which is indispensable for
the preservation of our social order. Global migration and
gender are highly relevant issues. For it is often these people, most
of whom are women, who literally “do the dirty work” for us every
single day – out of sight or kept invisible. Without any recognition for
their life’s work; subjected to arbitrariness and exploitation; trapped
within neoliberal, capitalist systems of inequality. Out of fear of losing
their job, or due to uncertain residence status or insufficient or absolutely no legal or social support.
Since 2015, Karen Packebusch has travelled to Skopje, Genoa, Nam
Định, Maputo, Recife, Gijón, Kołobrzeg, Berlin and Frankfurt, and
spoken with women working in private households about their experiences. She cleverly addresses global commonalities and their regio
nal effects, and the interdependence of relationships between origin,
class and gender.
‘Doing the Dirty Work’ takes an interdisciplinary and internationalistic
approach to render the women’s work valuable and visible in work of a
high artistic quality. Yes, of course by even taking the subject up in the
first place, but also by introducing it into the artistic debate.
The highly topical issues are discussed in audiovisual installations, per
formances and snippets of interviews with and by domestic workers;
the subject is linked with sound, photos, videos, text and language.
She always gets close to those who speak for themselves and must
finally be heard. The public is confronted, the beholder questioned and
even reminded of their own responsibility in economic, capitalist sys
tems through multiple room situations that can be experienced. A
point that impressed us, so to speak. Art, dear guests, is the driving
force and powerhouse behind sociopolitical change. ‘Doing the
Dirty Work’ – thus named in reference to the book of the same name
by Bridget Anderson – is an important contribution to the necessary
search for answers to the transformation of work processes in a globa
lised yet unequal world and the search for solutions for a non-violent
and just society.
Clara Zetkin once said “I want to fight where life is” and I feel that
Packebusch pursues this motto in her work as an artist. She goes where
life is, with an appreciation that one of the most essential contributions
to our lives – nursing and caring for other humans – deserves and must
© Karen Packebusch, 2019