Woven by some of the last remaining traditional lace-workers in China from yarn unpicked from clothes typical of domestic workers in China, The hardest working man contains a surprising image from a 1978 issue of Playgirl.
Lace has a long history and multiple cultural connotations frequently associated with virtue. The technique was brought to Asia by missionaries, while in Europe it was considered a wholesome activity for young women. In both cases it might be associated with good morals at odds with the image that it is woven into, Ron Jeremy’s first amateur appearance in Playgirl. Submitted by his girlfriend while he was studying at acting school, it unexpectedly took Jeremy’s career into the adult movie industry where he became one of the most successful actors of all time. Equating different forms of gendered labour and morality it creates an “entangled image of hope, aspiration and struggle” between one man’s wish for equal recognition with Hollywood stars intertwined with women’s undervalued labour.
The work was produced for the exhibition The Morality Reflex at CAC Vilnius, curated by Heidi Ball