The Union of Undercover Artists was formed in July 2006 to be the collective, representative voice of the three artists taking part in ‘Part-time’ – the first project run by Prime. They are Ellie Harrison (UK), Elizabeth Kearney (UK) and Joanna Spitzner (US).

Acting as an employment agency of sorts, Prime, co-ordinated by artist Steven Renshaw and Mark Smith, was set up to investigate the relationship between the employment that artists undertake and the artwork that they produce.

For ‘Part-time’ the artists were commissioned to spend a four week period working ‘undercover’ in a low-wage job. The idea was that they generate work in response to their experiences and new surroundings.

From May – August 2006 the three artists undertook a number of work placements across the UK in Blackpool, Liverpool and Nottingham.

During this period they began a three-way dialogue based on a mutual understanding of the experience of looking for and undertaking these ‘undercover’ posts in society – an isolating and unusual situation caught somewhere between investigative journalism, social tourism and role-play gaming.

In order to formalise this dialogue and to address the shared concerns of the three artists, with their employer Prime, they decided to form a union. On 29 May 2006 they met with Tina Gurley Flynn – an experienced union worker who had expressed a great interest in the project.

Gurley Flynn was unanimously elected the artists’ ‘shop steward’ and spokeswoman and the Union of Undercover Artists was born.

In the short term the Union of Undercover Artists aims to be a reactionary group – acting as arbitrator between Prime and its employees. It aims to be a forum for discussion around the themes emerging from the experience of ‘Part-time’ and to assist and support the artists taking part in the project.

In the long term the UUA hopes to expand, drawing attention to the lack of support or representation for individuals working in the visual arts sector and to go somewhere towards filling this void.