“Not Lost” is a satirical response to the DWP’s (Department for Work & Pensions) shoddy information collecting process by artist Mow, which features in the exhibition. The piece has been made to communicate a rejection of practices within the current benefits system. It is inspired by the artist’s personal experience of collecting and sending requested financial information to the benefits centre, which was subsequently “lost” in the system. The time and energy it has taken to make the bag mirrors the time it took to prepare and re-send financial documents requested by the DWP.
Mow has used the words “Not Lost” as a statement regarding her personal identity. She refuses to become lost as an individual, to be identified by codes and numbers within systems.
To highlight individuality, this one off piece is a practical product – a contrast to the impractical way the DWP handles personal data. Mow has literally taken the shirt off her back, printed a record of expenditure over a month and appliqued these onto the bag. Not Lost lettering has been formed using a plastic bag from a shop the artist regularly uses, indicating the type of shops those on a low budget often use.
The size of the bag and material used leads to it looking like a laundry bag (a reference to airing dirty laundry in public), highlighting the embarrassment and shame that receiving benefits can invoke. The bag is also is similar to a mail bag, linking back to the subject matter. The bag is opened and closed with a frayed drawstring. The frayed strings are a remark on tensions being frayed in being financially insecure, all the time with the DWP being in charge of the purse strings.