Strange Labor is an exploration of how bodies move in and out of commodity states within the scaffold of global capitalism in general, and American culture in particular. The starting point of the work was a discovery of the visual and ideological convergence of the female reproductive cycle with certain stock market cycles, in particular the pattern of a market “bubble,” in which the market value of an asset deviates considerably from its “intrinsic value,” ultimately resulting in a crash. In addition to studying general reproductive patterns, I charted my own cycle by measuring my basal body temperature, a practice that visually tracks the stages of a monthly cycle, as well as the potential existence or loss of a pregnancy. It seemed both revelatory and sinister that financial charting and analyses should mirror so closely the emotional language and details of reproduction.
Through an examination of the personal, economic, and cultural forces that influence reproductive decisions, particularly the complex ways in which the value of the female body is linked to its capacity or incapacity to create new consumers, I also considered how many bodies shift in and out of value states, by what means a body is assigned a monetary, social, or ideological value, and how assigned value intersects with other forms of stratification as well as changing socioeconomic forces. The basic patterns of capitalism are forced upon, embedded in, and expressed by bodies. The shape of profit and the pattern of loss are ingrained in our consciousness as a measure of both institutional and personal successes or failures. The title is a nod to Marx’s essay about the alienation of the worker, Estranged Labor.