making hetty continued

Over summer, I had a period of reflection about what I was making and why. I had been using cleaning product materials, such as scourers, to create masks, which hadn't been wholly successful; I hadn't intended them to look quite as scary as they turned out - I wanted things to be more light-hearted. I had started making the masks with no particular idea in mind, other than concealing identity and making reference to the different masks we wear. I also began to think of the cleaner's job as a repetitive ritual. I was still interested in the idea of masks and decided to go in a slightly different direction.


I remembered reading somewhere about Henry hoovers being invented as a companion for workers and decided to confirm this. It transpires Ron McAdam, the inventor of the Hetty/Henry hoover, has indeed stated the name and face were put on the hoover because “the lonely cleaning armies of the early morning and late night liked to use an object they could address as a friend”. I have used Hetty in my work, as it's gendered (pink, with painted eyelashes) The face is inanimate, though it has an expression of animation painted onto it.


The Hetty head appeals to me because to me it's quietly subversive; using a mass produced object in a way it wasn't designed for.


To make my Hetty head, I initially sourced a broken hoover on ebay. I took out the motor and cut a hole in the bottom to accommodate my head. I started photographing myself with the head on, mainly to see what it looked like as the Hetty 'head' had no eye holes, so I was unable to see.


At the same time I was also continuing to research the conditions of the present day commercial cleaning sector worker. I thought this subject had scope, linking to wider issues involving money, class, power and immigration and decided to make contact with cleaners working in London. I realised I would have to be careful in how I approached people: I didn't want to alienate anyone. I began making contacts  through the Cleaners For Justice campaign after several emails to different groups.


Marx's notion of reification (literally turning into a thing) and Johnson's book 'Persons and Things' has informed the work I have made recently, reflected in the title of the film, Thingy – a reference to 'thingification'.


This work is intended as a critical analysis on relations between objects, commodities and persons. There is a focus on acknowledging the concealed human relationships in labour and the products of labour which have been alienated.