This is an archived page from the Website Archive of British artist Ellie Harrison from Version 3.0 (active 2008 - 2015). New website:

last updated
15th July 2015

Over summer 2006 Ellie was commissioned by the Liverpool-based artist-run organisation Prime to take part in the project Part-time. For Part-time three artists were asked to spend four weeks working undercover in a low-wage job and to generate work in response to their new surroundings.

Unfortunately, Ellie was not able to find steady employment for the full four weeks. Instead she had a variety of experiences with temp jobs and recruitment agencies as she desperately looked for work. These included: being interviewed for an electricity meter installation job, filing and copy typing in the office of a construction company, ushering an event at which the ‘celebrity’ guest was an Ozzy look-a-like, data inputting for a small eBay business, packing St Tropez tan mitts on a production line, doing door-to-door sales for ‘charity’ and getting up at 5:30 in the morning to ‘sign-in’ at Labour Ready. These experiences are described in detail on Ellie’s work blog, which you can view by clicking on the link to the right under ‘Further Reference’.

As a way of documenting her involvement in Part-time, Ellie decided to keep a record of everything she did, 24 hours a day for the full four week period. She categorised her time into a series of 17 different activities such as ‘employment’, ‘computer work’ or ‘exercise’. The data was recorded in a pocket sized log book and then compiled into an expansive spreadsheet on a daily basis, which by the end of the four weeks, contained 2,297 entries. As a way of visualising just exactly how she spent her time, Ellie used these reams of data to create a series of 28 colour-coded timelines.

The most significant outcome of Ellie’s involvement in Part-time however, was the bond that developed between her and the other two artists who were taking part in the project, Elizabeth Kearney and Joanna Spitzner. The unusual undercover role that Part-time demanded meant that they each found themselves operating in quite isolated situations. Although they were in different areas of the country - Ellie in Nottingham, Joanna in Blackpool and Elizabeth in Liverpool, their shared experience of searching for employment and working as ‘undercover artists’ allowed them to empathise - supporting and assisting each other through the process.

As a way of formalising this three-way relationship, Ellie, Elizabeth, and Joanna decided to unionise and become a united front against their employer Prime by creating the Union of Undercover Artists. They elected a spokeswoman by the name of Tina Gurley Flynn who was their representative voice and from that point onwards entered into all subsequent communication and negotiation with Prime on their behalf. An archive of all their correspondence can be viewed on the union website by clicking on the link to the right under ‘Further Reference’.