The 22 minute length video "Labor of Love" dissects the freelance labor conditions of professional horseracing through an endearing series of portraits of 3 German-based international jockeys including champion jockey Andrasch Starke, considered by many as the best German jockey of all time and winner of the 2011 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and The 2012 King George VI Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
From the side of the tracks, horse racing appears as a sport rooted in pedigree, exclusivity, and elitism; at the opposite end of the spectrum is the reality of the jockeys’ existence. Many of them come from immigrant backgrounds, and sacrifice family life, health, safety, and material comfort in their dedication to the sport they love.
While their voices are rarely heard in the mainstream sports world, the jockeys in D’Angelo’s work speak freely and openly about the pressures and dangers of their everyday lives and careers, which are held to a delicate precipice and impending expiration date owing to such factors as body weight, age, and injury.
Thoroughbred horse racing is a billion dollar global industry that is met with criticism and debate on both the ethics and safety of horses and riders. My video work, "Labor of Love", was both researched and shot over the time span of 1.5 years and concentrated on those unseen experiences and voices of jockeys. The impetus of this work came 3 years prior, as I begun to learn horse riding and then became fascinated with the complex and precarious existence of thoroughbred racehorses and their riders.
The sport of horse racing is known as "The Sport of Kings", and is one of the oldest sports and is mixed gendered, yet many know little about the lives of jockeys and this global economy. After interviewing jockeys over the course of several months about their personal and professional lives, I realized that many jockeys, both male and female, must maintain a weight of 52 - 55 kilo in order to meet race limit requirements. Jockeys must also train and race nearly 365 days a year, yet many struggle to earn a sustainable living if they fail to win races. Jockey's typically receive 5-10% of the prize money if they place 1,2 or 3rd. Their dedication, talent, solitude, ambition and complex relationship to horses was not a subject that was well documented and served as an inspiration to this work.
What struck me most about this sport was that most jockeys are freelancers. They do not have contracts or any form of security, and though many fail to become a "champion", their persistence and dreams become an overriding factor in their pursuit for success. Their precarious lives and careers had stunning parallels to other freelance positions that are limited by both age and body - their careers rely solely on chance where time works against you.
The film poses many questions on the desire to be successful within high stake spheres and to consider the consequences in the pursuit of being recognized as a champion in a global economy where winners take all.
Christa Joo Hyun D'Angelo
is an American artist based in Berlin working in a wide variety of media including installation, video, neon and works on paper. She has studied under TJ Demos at the Maryland Institute College of Art and The Academy of Fine Art Krakow Poland.
D'Angelo's work encompasses a research based art practice concerning the politics of representations regarding class, race, sexuality and gender paradigms that exist within our shared media landscape.
Her work explores the production of race in both transnational spaces and urban areas within Eurocentric and American media zones, highlighting questions of “exoticism” and object fetishism as a form of racism. She attempts to reconstruct conventional modes of identification, while rejecting the restrictive categories of identity in order to adopt a more plural way of experiencing race, gender and sexual relationships.
Recently, her work begun to expand upon narratives that connect body politics to neoliberalism and human animal relations in the competitive sport of global horse racing through various modes of video production. Currently, she is exploring post-colonial themes and the intersectionality of migration and sexuality.
D'Angelo's work has been reviewed in Artforum,The Guardian, Art in America,The New York Times, and Huffingtonpost. Her work has been exhibited at The Centre for Contemporary Art Glasgow,Volta Artfair NYC, Galerie Suvi Lehtinen and September Gallery. She was 2014 studio grant holder from District Kunst - und Kulturförderung Atelier Grant.