Grey Room

Manual Operations: Joan Lyons’s Haloid Xerox Works and Feminized Labor

Michelle Donnelly

Haloid Xerox Standard Equipment advertisement, 1964. Detail. From left to right: Copyboard, Camera No. 4, Model D Processor, Heat Fuser. Xerox Historical Archives, Webster, NY.


In addition to participating in gendered discourses, Lyons’s Haloid Xerox works intervened in a wider postwar technocratic culture that prioritized rationality and efficiency. Seeking to increase profits during a period of tremendous technological changes, executives enlisted scientific management “experts” who transformed the workplace into a site of highly regimented tasks. Lyons’s practice pushed against these technocratic principles. Her use of an obsolete, laborious set of devices resisted the productivity standards imposed on manual laborers and illuminated their devalued skills. In turning my attention to xerography, I also build on materialist scholarship that takes seriously art-making processes whose very hybridity has led to their marginalization. Occupying the interstices between the traditional boundaries of photography, printmaking, drawing, and craft, Lyons’s works have been simultaneously misunderstood as mechanically reproduced “copies” and disregarded for their feminized techniques.