The Pickers (2009)
Single Screen Video with Sound
17 minutes 52 seconds
Reference copy of The Pickers on Vimeo
The Pickers shows a group of young Romanian migrant workers at a strawberry farm (between Whitstable and Faversham in Kent) who, through Chodzko’s involvement, over a period of time, temporarily alternate their intensive strawberry picking labour with another form of work, the editing and mediation of a 20th century film archive of migrant hop pickers from London.
Sited in a ‘parallel reality’ differences are blurred as to where and when events are set (eg: is this a Romanian video or a British one? Is this a reflection on the past or a glimpse of a future meeting?) as they are between ideas of labour and leisure, the identity of an archive and its mediation, and who ultimately is holding the knowledge (and therefore the power) here?
The young Romanian strawberry workers (Estera Boguş, Mihai Boguş, Ionuţ Roşu, Remus Bujor) project memories of Ceaucescu’s Romania onto the English hop picking footage. Facial expressions shown in these archival recordings provoke, in the present, comparisons as to the relative contentment of the two communities and cultures.
Sound is crucial to this work; it actively bridges different spaces (editing room, strawberry farm interior, hop field exterior etc) and its fluid relationship to the visual in the forms of different coincidences, some appearing to be accidental, ‘wrong’, actual, ideal or imaginary. The Pickers erodes certainties as to what is generating the knowledge it appears to offer so that it slowly evolves into a dream; perhaps a Romanian advertisement to British migrant workers to come to Romania?
Klara Kemp-Welch, ‘The Romanians are Coming’. Labour Migration and the Politics of the Observational Documentary, Third Text, Volume 34, 2020 – Issue 2, Routledge