Karen Packebusch

born in Dresden/Germany in 1981, 1999–2005 studies in history and art at TU Dresden/Germany, 2006–2011 studies in interdisciplinary painting, performance & analogue and digital imagery at the Academy of Fine Arts Dresden/Germany, University of Leeds/Great Britain and at Zurich University of the Arts/ Switzerland.

Since 2011, she has worked freelance as an artist, teacher for the mediation of artistic practices, curator and exhibited in Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain, Poland, Czech Repu blic, Macedonia, Spain, Israel, Argentina, Vietnam, Brazil and Mozambique.

Her work alternates between installation, photography, video, performance, object and drawing.


Funded by

Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, Goethe Institute Brazil, Goethe Institute Mozambique, GIZ, Rede Hopem Maputo, Museo de História Natural Maputo, Freie Universität Berlin, Verdi, Gerda Weiler Stiftung, Arbeitsgemeinschaft literarischer Gesellschaften und Gedenkstätten e.V., Internationale Gisela Elsner Gesellschaft Hamburg, Tiefbauamt Dresden, Isha L'Isha – The Haifa Feminist Center, Kulturförderung des Freistaat Sachsen, riesa efau. Dresden, Prefeitura Recife, Citizen Art Days Berlin


“I want to fight where life is.” Clara Zetkin

Laudatory speech for the prizewinner of the 2018 RosaKunstpreis art prize: Karen Packebusch
by Anja Eichhorn, art historian and member of the board of trustees for the inaugural RosaKunstpreis art prize

In the artistic work being honoured today entitled ‘Doing the Dirty Work’, Karen Packebusch uses art to question the work of migrant women in private households. These days, this forms part of the organisation of reproductive work, also known as care work, which is indispensable for the preservation of our social order. Global migration and gender are highly relevant issues. For it is often these people, most of whom are women, who literally “do the dirty work” for us every single day – out of sight or kept invisible. Without any recognition for their life’s work; subjected to arbitrariness and exploitation; trapped within neoliberal, capitalist systems of inequality. Out of fear of losing their job, or due to uncertain residence status or insufficient or absolutely no legal or social support.

Since 2015, Karen Packebusch has travelled to Skopje, Genoa, Nam Định, Maputo, Recife, Gijón, Kołobrzeg, Berlin and Frankfurt, and spoken with women working in private households about their experiences. She cleverly addresses global commonalities and their regio nal effects, and the interdependence of relationships between origin, class and gender.

‘Doing the Dirty Work’ takes an interdisciplinary and internationalistic approach to render the women’s work valuable and visible in work of a high artistic quality. Yes, of course by even taking the subject up in the first place, but also by introducing it into the artistic debate.

The highly topical issues are discussed in audiovisual installations, per formances and snippets of interviews with and by domestic workers; the subject is linked with sound, photos, videos, text and language.

She always gets close to those who speak for themselves and must finally be heard. The public is confronted, the beholder questioned and even reminded of their own responsibility in economic, capitalist sys tems through multiple room situations that can be experienced. A point that impressed us, so to speak. Art, dear guests, is the driving force and powerhouse behind sociopolitical change. ‘Doing the Dirty Work’ – thus named in reference to the book of the same name by Bridget Anderson – is an important contribution to the necessary search for answers to the transformation of work processes in a globa lised yet unequal world and the search for solutions for a non-violent and just society.

Clara Zetkin once said “I want to fight where life is” and I feel that Packebusch pursues this motto in her work as an artist. She goes where life is, with an appreciation that one of the most essential contributions to our lives – nursing and caring for other humans – deserves and must be accorded.



Karen Packebusch


© Karen Packebusch, 2019

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