First Job by
Laura Bissett

December 17, 2013

Us creatives occasionally need a reprieve from the Mac. It’s true, if you look at a computer screen for long enough you’ll go cross-eyed, or so my Mum always told me.

An afternoon perusing some of Australia’s finest contemporary art, at Sydney’s MCA, proved beneficial to both our creative sensibilities, and our eyes!

The ‘MCA Collection: New Acquisitions in Context 2013’ exhibition, showcased works by over 28 emerging and established artists from across the country. There was something nice about attending an all Aussie exhibition, celebrating the diverse nature of Australia’s artistic landscape, both past and present.

In particular, the work of Tracey Moffatt caught our eye. ‘First Jobs Series 2008’, is a collection of digitally altered images that reflect scenes of the artists first jobs, from ‘hair washer’, ‘canteen worker’, to ‘meat packer’. Each re-worked scene incorporates the artists image, providing a context of where the artist has come from and what less than desirable first job experiences she has endured. It also provides a nostalgic window into the 1970’s and 80’s Australian workplace.

Moffatt reflects in a 2008 interview: “Over the years my friends and I joke about our dreadful past jobs. Jobs we worked as teenagers and young students. Awful jobs that we would rather forget about such as cleaning out the local cinema after a screening of The Exorcist in 1974”

The work got me thinking about my own first experiences of a hard days work. From bar wench, to working on the floor for the local newspaper hand inserting the weekend magazine at 2am on a Saturday morning, or working as a Subway ‘sandwich artist’ – with each of these tasks as unappealing as the next. To this day, I still can’t stand the smell of a meatball sub.

A certain connection to the artworks can be experienced when viewing Moffatts’ series, drawing parallels to our own first jobs – however forgettable they may seem. For most of us, it is these menial, and sometimes hazardous tasks that have inevitably formed the fabric of our adult lives, teaching us the value of a dollar, and even shaping the direction of our current career paths.

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