Susana Belen

New South Wales, Australia

Page 8 of Fragments of (In) Voluntary Domination by Susana Belen
artist book: 9”x12”; magazines, encyclopedias, cardboard; 2021

Susana Belen, originally from Chile and currently residing in Australia, was drawn to collage through her questioning of different artistic practices and mediums. She found in collage the ability “to connect the remnants left in this world by different cultures, at different times and in various formats, with the aim of externalizing how intimate a work that exposes and re-exposes experiences taken from their original context can become.” This innate propensity to question what others may accept as settled or ordained however, has shifted her focus to investigating a subject whose dogmas are often taken for granted: work.

Belen’s artist book Fragments of (In) Voluntary Domination is a darkly humorous satire on the deeply entrenched, yet increasingly worn-out, work ethic values of modern capitalism; in particular the idea that “work is…the ultimate goal that every single individual should do…no matter the conditions, the working hours, the stress or the poverty wages.” Her book pointedly confronts the exploitation of workers—particularly those in “unskilled” jobs (a phrase that at best refers to monotonous or repetitive work, and at worst is an undisguised premise to pay poverty wages for a wholly unfulfilling position). She goes further to sharply criticize the oft-quoted justification that this exploitation is necessary in order to serve a greater good, or in order for a person to achieve a dream that is more mythological than realistic. In doing so, Belen asks the viewer to question why a person’s labor is not only historically undervalued, but why their individual humanity is increasingly being sacrificed in order to serve the values that we accept as absolute of “obedience, discipline, and production.”