madskills: Self-Documenting Construction on Social Media

madskills: Self-Documenting Construction on Social Media investigates popular social media clips documenting construction work by those present on site. Inspired by the rise of the creator economy, contractors, builders, and tradespeople have started to record and share their skills, creativity, and concerns with a digitally connected community of peers, clients, and construction enthusiasts through shares, likes, follows, and comments. The diffusion of these images and reels and the emergence of this trend heighten the visibility of the construction industry, workers, and their material culture and practices.

Juxtaposing digitally produced content with items from the CCA collection, the exhibition explores how the visual representation of construction processes has changed with the use of social media, as control over its distribution has shifted to include everyone involved and more. Where past documentation practices largely tended to subject labourers to the gaze of the camera or removed their presence on building sites altogether, visually skilled operators now place their bodies, tools, and the machines they use at the centre of their digital output—setting the tone for broader conversations about work and working in the built environment. What does this new approach to documenting their work and public image mean for them, and how is the public’s perception of labour and workers in the building sector influenced by these new innovative, performative, and often funny documents?

madskills is part of a longer, ongoing investigation at the CCA into the use of photography and new media as a means of studying the built environment. This new chapter on digitally produced content engages with questions of agency, authorship, and ethics around the presentation and citation of such material.

Jeet Malhotra, Workers forming a human chain to pour concrete manually at a building site in Chandigarh, India, ca. 1953. Gelatin silver print on paper, 7.6 × 7.6 cm. ARCH264665 Pierre Jeanneret Fonds, CCA. Gift of Jacqueline Jeanneret
7 June to 20 October 2024
Canadian Centre for Architecture
1920, rue Baile
H3H 2S6 Montreal
Canadian Centre for Architecture
More information