DOLE by nick-e melville

interviewroom11

This catalogue accompanies:
“DOLE” an exhibition by nick-e melville
6 – 16 November 2013 Interviewroom11, Edinburgh.

DOLE

Argyle House, formerly an old social security office incorporating a job centre,

with bullet proof customer booths still in place, alongside ticket dispenser

and, a still working, queue allocation number-machine.

5


6


Toilets (ang.)

An old till roll, with receipts of purchases from the staff canteen.

Transactional economy of the work place, where meagre benefit

transactions are processed. Toilets is an anagram of TS Eliot.

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8


Communication

Hand written replication of the graffiti in the social security customer toilets, still in situ after

many years.

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12


13


GRASS

DSS toilet graffiti

CAL –S

COW

FUCKED AGAIN

The left over slags

DOSE NOT EVEN LIKE HER

YOU ARE A

GILMERTON SLAG BITCH

POLICE

INFORMER

TUFF SHIT HEʼS

MINE YA SILLY

WEE BOOT

GRASS

Us women put men

on this earth

and what thanks do

we get

FUCK ALL

Us women put men

on this earth

and what thanks do

we get

FUCK ALL

FUCK YOU

YA COW

FAE PAULINE

IS A FAT SMELLY

JUNKIE BASTERD

ALWAYS

&

FOREVER

Jordin

is

a big

pote

onwards

4 EVER

4 YEARS

2 COME

Fae

1997

and

14

FUCK YOU

YA COW

FAE PAULINE


forever

IDT

still

going

strong

Hi doll

Howʼs u?

luv

Lynne

Fuck humanity

It fucked its self

Aids will kill

all

DeATH!

an eND TO ALL

NO MATTER

WHO U R

or what

youve

Achieved

ALWAYS

+

forever

ALWAYS

+

forever

IDT

FUCK YOU

YIR FUCKEN

FANNYS ROTTEN

YA WEE

STEEMER

Clarty fanny

suck foastie

LIPS

FOR

A

BOTTLE

OF

CIDER

SLUT

was ere

in style

110%

strong

SLAG

SLAG

IS AT AT DIRTY

SLAG

You are dead boot

FUCK YOU

YIR FUCKEN

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17


Reception / Interview room 1–4

This glass case is a record of the instruments of repression. The objects it contains – mostly pens and

pencils – are innocuous at first glance, yet they represent the implicit power that those institutions can wield

over people. The swab found among all the other detritus in my digging around is an anomaly. What was its

purpose? To test claimants for disease, record their DNA?

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21


Rubbish

A flap from a rubbish bin in the old canteen. Its function and what it signifies is disrupted, but still

present, as layers of meaning are added. It suggests the remnants that I found in Argyle House, the

ephemeral nature of the exhibition, but also the dismissive nature of the benefits system, where

claimants are increasingly treated as rubbish. Underneath is a bag full of real claimant file print outs,

which I shredded (see also ‘Scott print outs’ nos. 17-19).

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Annual leave

The term ‘annual leave’ has always annoyed me. What’s wrong with ‘holiday’? Annual leave implies permission

has been given, you have been allowed leave of absence, thus reinforcing the power-dynamics of the employee

hierarchy. ‘Holiday’ sounds like way too much fun.

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29


Occupied

Metal sliding door signs removed from the doors and

grouped together, with black pen erasures of the

words ‘vacant’ and ‘engaged.’ The title is deliberately

polysemic, meaning to take, seize; take possession of,

held in possession; dwell in; filled up, taken up; engaged,

employed; under military occupation.

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35


Label

A label already in the space that became

the gallery, Interview Room 11.

36

Staff forms

Staff forms as noun – the forms

that staff can take.


The 11th check

* Please bring

3 months wage slips.

3 months bank statements.

Open new bank account.

Up-to-date creditor information.

37


Destroy

An instruction to destroy between Oct 09 – July 2010. Surrounding this is a Tipp-Ex

erasure poem – ‘The Law says you need to live on’ – created from the destruction

of one of my JSA letters, received in the months prior to the exhibition.

38


Changing room

Where staff forms go to change.

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40


Interview room 5 & 6

This glass case is a logical extension of the

previous one. Instead of instruments of repression

this contains found objects that could be employed

in a more sinister type of interview scenario.

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42


43


Memorandoms

Three internal memo forms in various states.

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45


46

Business

Like the label, this was already in place.


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48

Scott print outs 1–63 (heavily amended) with Anne Laure Coxam


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51


Scott print outs 100–125 (hardly amended)

I found 225 pages of computer print outs relating to one claim. These were arranged in blocks and

also shredded. Some were heavily amended through Tipp-Ex erasures, some were left as found.

52


Xmas party (Scott print outs 160–225 shredded) with Anne Laure Coxam

Some of the shredded print outs, arranged to suggest a xmas office party.

53


Poppy

A print of Monet’s 1873 painting Poppy Field found somewhere in Argyle House. This

type of faux-cultural print – ubiquitous in offices in recent decades – sought to indicate

a corporate appreciation of art and brighten the place up. In relation to social security it

signifies heroin and drug abuse, associated rightly or wrongly with benefit claimants, it

is also slang for money. The poppy references the Haig Fund and the commemoration

of WW1, and by extension wars in general, with many soldiers ending up in the benefit

system, or worse, once the army is done with them. The frame is deliberately askew.

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55


Interview room 12

The inside of an interview booth where staff forms would interview

claimants. The room was left as is. On the other side of the glass a

recording played on a loop, iterating the options available from the Job

Centre Plus phone line.

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57


58


Exit

An erasure with green acrylic paint.

59


Folders

Unused folders for storing all information and correspondence for claimants,

finally put to good use.

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61


Letter

(pages 62/67)

A letter written to Iain Duncan Smith MP, then Secretary of State for Work and

Pensions, which was copied to my local MP, Sheila Gilmore, and Kenny MacAskill,

MSP, then Cabinet Secretary for Justice. The letter was an attempt to prove

the impossibility of getting by on £71.70, the weekly amount of Job Seekers’

Allowance.

Replies

(pages 68/69; 70)

My letter was sent to allow 21 days for a response – the time indicated by Duncan

Smith’s office for a reply – which coincided with the opening of the exhibition. I

received timeous replies from MacAskill (note hilarious typo in the third sentence

of his reply) and Gilmore. A very standard reply from the office of the MP for

Chingford, addressing none of my questions, did not arrive until the very end of the

exhibition, two weeks after it should have.

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63


T3.02

The Scottish Parliament

Edinburgh

EH99 1SP

37 Lismore Crescent

Edinburgh

EH8 7DL

15/10/2013

Dear Mr MacAskill,

I am writing to you to ask if you could consider some issues I have raised with Mr

Smith at the Department of Work and Pensions regarding Job Seekers’ Allowance –

the letter is appended below in its entirety. Many issues have been raised, so please

don’t feel obliged to answer them all, however, as my MSP I will be pleased to know

what you think about these issues in general and any response to specific points will

be greatly received.

‘Dear Mr Smith,

I am writing to you to pose some questions about Job Seekers’ Allowance, which I

have been claiming for a year. I work part-time, so generally receive no JSA, because I

have as much as or more money coming in than the law says I need to live on.

The last clause of the preceding sentence is pertinent to my main questions, as the

clause contains a paraphrase of a puzzling sentence from my JSA letters. Here is the

sentence:

64

‘We cannot pay you because you have as much as or more money coming in than the

law says you need to live on.’


This is the statement I receive when I earn more than £71.70 per week (all bar two

weeks this year). My first question is this: what is the law to which this refers?

According to the OED (the) law is defined as ‘the system of rules which a particular

country or community recognises as regulating the actions of its members and which

it may enforce by the imposition of penalties.’ This definition led me to the formulation

of the following: how can there be a law which regulates how much money one has

coming in? How can one break such a law?

These questions have been bothering me for some time. I also thought I’d take this

opportunity to question the assumption that it is possible to live on £71.70 a week by

breaking down a week’s spending, before further exploration surrounding this sum.

Prior to this I would like to ask: how was this figure calculated? Did it take in to account

government recommendations about one’s 5-a-day for instance? I shall return to

other questions about what it may or may not have considered.

Here are my rough calculations of spending for one week:

Essentials

Cost

Electricity (coin meter) £7.00

Bus fares (five days at £3.50) £17.50

Internet (monthly breakdown) £9.00

Mobile phone ( “ ) £7.00

Soup (two or three lunches) £2.00

Breakfast (seven days, only toast) £2.20

5 a day (conservative estimate) £13.00

Eggs (ad hoc meals) £1.70

Meat (two meals) £4.00

Chicken (one meal) £3.00

Cheese (lunches) £2.00

Milk £1.50

Bread (mostly covered by toast) £0.50

Butter £1.00

Coffee/Tea £2.20

Total £73.60

65


I would like to explain my rationale for the contents of the above table, which, as you

can see, amounts to more than £71.70 and then consider things not covered

Electricity is self-explanatory: luckily I don’t have to pay for my GCH, covered in my rent;

bus fares: I generally have to travel somewhere most days and need more than two

buses, five days is a generous average; internet and mobile phones are prerequisites,

I would say, for contemporary living, not least for job searches and being contactable

at any time; soup is a cheap healthy meal that can last for a few meals; I like toast,

so am happy to have it every day, others may not and may spend more, especially

on something healthier; we are told by Government that we can exist on the above

weekly amount, at the same time, separately, we are recommended to have five

portions of fruit and veg per day – fresh items such as these are expensive, especially

when living alone – does this recommendation apply to those on JSA?; eggs, a good

source of protein and versatile; other sources of protein are meat and chicken, which I

have pencilled in for three meals in total; cheese, also good as part of a balanced diet;

milk and bread are pretty much staples of most diets; finally, coffee and tea could be

seen as luxuries, especially at the estimated cost above, but real coffee is one of my

few treats. Overall, I think there is enough food, healthy and fresh, to cover a week’s

consumption – just.

It is also generally assumed that a lot of benefit claimants and poor families lack the

‘skillset’ to use fresh ingredients to make healthy meals every day: ‘Poor families

more likely to eat junk Food’ (Daily Mail, Aug 2012) – see also anything Jamie Oliver

says on this issue. Without even considering health implications, junk food and

processed food is typically less economical than fresh ingredients that can be made

to last a week, especially if consumed three times a day. A government report from

2008 (Food: an analysis of the issue, Jan 2008) stated that poor families spend more

on food, proportionately, than wealthier families. I would hazard a guess that those

food bills would be more than the one I outlined for myself.

66


These, then, are the staples. What about other things? According to government

information on JSA, the weekly allowance is enough to cover replacing clothing due

to general wear and tear. If new clothes are needed a larger sum of money is required

at one time, say £20 for a new pair of jeans (not a very realistic price) – this would

create a significant dent in one week’s benefit. Say, for example, in six months there

would be a need to replace footwear, jeans, and a few tops, amounting to £80 at

a low estimate, convert this into a weekly sum and it pushes my breakdown up by

£3.33. I would suggest it’s nigh on impossible to save up for these things week by

week. Sometimes unexpected things happen, a funeral for instance, which will not be

covered by a typical week’s budget.

Then there could be other travel expenses to see family or friends outside of your local

area. What are we meant to do about birthdays? I have three children and two have

birthdays in the same week: am I not meant to buy them presents? How do I plan for

birthdays so close together? Do I disappoint my children? In my essential list above I

didn’t include other household goods that don’t need bought every week, but which

are still essential: cleaning products, toothpaste, washing powder, washing up liquid,

shower gel, toilet roll and so on. These costs, broken down into weekly amounts will

push my weekly estimate a few pounds higher. I have a laser jet printer, for which I

needed a toner this year – this cost £25 in one go; again, how does this factor into

my weekly benefit budget? Obviously I need my printer to apply for jobs: printing

applications, letters and CVs. To post away correspondence I need stamps. The cost

of stamps has risen dramatically – a rise of around 30% at one point – since the

credit crunch and privatisation by stealth, now for real. That’s the other thing about

recession: all price rises, and there are many, seem to increase far more than inflation

and even more than wage rises. (Even the price of a bacon roll in 2010 increased by

30% in one particular bakery chain.) This is a ridiculous economic bias and imbalance.

I have a rough idea why this happens, but can you explain it formally? These points

are very rough, but I think the idea is clear that there are many many things to cover

with the weekly amount the law says I need to live on, and which outstrip that weekly

amount.

67


68

I should also point out that I have lost four jobs since the economic crisis began, due

to funding cuts in my work sector: community education. It is now extremely difficult

to find sustainable work within this area, as there are fewer jobs and more people out

of work looking for employment in that field. Not to mention the rise of precarious

working conditions: contract work and zero-hour contracts. Struggling by with parttime

work, while receiving housing benefit, is the only way I can keep my hand in this

area. In other words, if I changed sectors, just to get off JSA, I might preclude myself

from ever working in the area I have worked in for the last eight years. For the record

it is an area in which I love working.

My last issue concerns what happens when you are working and suddenly have to

start signing on, with the massive drop in income that this incurs? Affordable things

such as mobile phones, cars, internet and so on, will suddenly seem financially out

of reach and once one has these things they cannot easily be given up. The claim

made by yourself that you would be able to live on weekly JSA is wholly disingenuous,

especially given the massive gap between your salary per week and JSA. It is a

preposterous claim. Surely a fairer system should be introduced whereby one’s

contribution to working and paying tax, in the period preceding signing on, would be

reflected in the amount of benefit received when first claiming JSA? This in itself, I feel,

would be more of an incentive to working, than the draconian ‘incentives’ currently on

offer. Insurance – a cushion – should one lose one’s job.

In France, for instance, if you are under 50 years old and have been working full time

for over four months, you are entitled to 57.4% of your last salary, after tax, through the

L’allocation d’aide au retour scheme (JSA equivalent). Couple this with other benefits,

housing benefit, and you could receive 70% of your last salary. This percentage

decreases gradually over time, but it’s a much fairer way to introduce people, who

have been working, to a severe change in income, than the significant income drop

which occurs in the UK. Similar schemes are in place in Denmark and other European

countries – I had the benefit of a French friend to find this information, but lacked a

Danish friend, or other European, to locate similar information.


I would like to know what you think about this particular way of dealing with

unemployment benefit and why, if it exists in other EU partner countries, it is not

adopted here, considered, or even discussed?

I realise there are many questions and issues raised in this letter, but they are

necessary questions to ask. Living on benefits during this interminable period of

austerity is very serious and I would appreciate a serious, considered response.

I look forward to hearing from you.’

I look forward to hearing from you too.

Yours sincerely,

Nicholas Melville

Cc: Sheila Gimlore, MP.

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DOLE

Exhibition view

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76


DOLE

Exhibition view

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78


DOLE

Exhibition view

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83


SOCIAL SECURITY

I am eighteen years old.

I am unemployed

and have no means of income.

first time claim

and I have no official proof

of identity

until I secure other

accommodation

or employment

I was in Jail UNTIL

THEN ON Income support Until

After serving 2 years 14 months

of a 4 year sentence

The law gives a list

of special reasons

that allows

claims to be

backdated

My previous claim was closed

As I was moving house

84

I forgot all about it

as I moved house

on that day


My previous claim was closed

As I was moving house

I forgot all about it

as I moved house

on that day

so everything got a bit messed up,

I call every few days

awaiting

next appointment date

DECISION MAKER

There was no more work –

They were subcontractors

I was ill on both days

I have been ILL and

In and Out

of hospital

but am well now

STOMACH PROBLEMS

Dialogue IS091 has terminated abnormally

TEMP work only

The guy@ payroll confirmed

JSA/ALSO IN JAIL

85


STOMACH PROBLEMS

Dialogue IS091 has terminated abnormally

TEMP work only

The guy@ payroll confirmed

JSA/ALSO IN JAIL

TEMP work only

DATE STENCIL FAXED

READY TO BE PROCESSED

Claims & Payments Regulations 1987

Only Temp work

Son is in hospital

as he has to have an operation

*STILL LIVE

I lived on my partners

child tax credit and child benefit

money

86

To whom it may concern

I Hereby write an honesty statement

that I am due no holiday

pay or PAY IN LUE of

Notice I AM DUE NO MONEY

FROM ANY EMPLOYER


I Hereby write an honesty statement

that I am due no holiday

pay or PAY IN LUE of

Notice I AM DUE NO MONEY

FROM ANY EMPLOYER

NOT ENOUGH WORK

Destruction Date Notification

Passported Reason Drug Abuse Nervous Debility

+ 2 nd Last Payslip

Unsure if customer is living at …

until I secure accommodation of my own

Domestic Emergency

I have asthma

and I was having difficulty breathing

LEFT AS PUT IN KITCHEN

WHICH WAS AGGRAVATING

MY ASTHMA

Mother and Father

My mother managed to help me

for a short while

I was at school and lived with my mother

Secretary of Stateʼs Direction on Severe Hardship

(Jobseekerʼs act 95)

87


My mother managed to help me

for a short while

I was at school and lived with my mother

Secretary of Stateʼs Direction on Severe Hardship

(Jobseekerʼs act 95)

My mum is going to throw me out

if I donʼt give her money towards my keep

Need to know

when and what payment was for

Asthma / Depression / Stomach Problems

I have no money and cannot get

a crisis loan

as I am at the £1000 limit

there has been a miscommunication

somewhere

along the line

Final payment made

only worked for one day

the lady confirmed

I was in hospital having a operation

to correct ACID REFLUX

I AM FINE NOW

88

I Have a cold/flu

Type of illness


the lady confirmed

I was in hospital having a operation

to correct ACID REFLUX

I AM FINE NOW

I Have a cold/flu

Type of illness

I reckon

it should only last a few days

I need to buy safety boots

for this job

I Moved House to this address

I am due no money

from them or anyone else

89


All objects, or groups of objects, were for

If one earned below the average salary th

If one earned above the average salary th

The average male salary at 6th Novembe

The average female salary at 6th Novemb

P60s were required at point of sale.

90


sale.

ey retailed at £71.70 (weekly JSA).

ey retailed at £350 (my housing benefit).

r 2013 was £31,500.

er 2013 was £24,475.

91


The artist would like to thank:

Mirja Koponen and everyone at Interviewroom11, Anne Laure Coxam and

Alessandro di Massimo.

This catalogue accompanies:

DOLE” an exhibition by nick-e melville

6 – 16 November 2013

Interviewroom11, Edinburgh.

© the artist 2017, all the rights reserved

Texts © nick-e melville

First published by IR11 publications, 2017

www.ir11.org.uk

Photo credits © Anne Laure Coxam, Mirja Koponen.

Catalogue designed and coordinated by Alessandro Di Massimo

Typeset in Titillium, designed by Campivisivi, Urbino (IT)

SIL Open Font License, Version 1.1


Founded in 2013, Interview Room 11 is an artist run gallery and project space

located in Leith, Edinburgh. Previously located in Argyle House as a part of the FC+

Studios, we have now moved to occupy space in Ocean Terminal, taking on a very

different context in a large retail complex.

Gallery Committee & Co-Directors:

Mirja Koponen

Ana González Chouciño

Jurgita Žvinklytė

The exhibition “DOLE” was coordinated by Mirja Koponen.

Thanks to all the volunteers who helped us to make this exhibition possible.


nick-e melville

DOLE

IR11 publications, 2017.

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