Marcel Schwierin, D
Florian Wüst, D
Globalismus und Apathie - Eine Polemik
Gegen den gesunden Menschenverstand oder: zum Wert der Arbeit (Florian Wüst)
real[work] - Zur Auswahl der Film- und Videoprogramme (Marcel Schwierin & Florian Wüst)
leisure [work] - Brüder zur Sonne, zur Freizeit! (Marcel Schwierin)
gender [work] - Zur Technologie des Geschlechts (Florian Wüst)
heroic [work] - Der Neue Mensch (Marcel Schwierin)
needless [work] - Autonomie und Verweigerung (Marcel Schwierin)
global [work] - Roger & die Cybraceros (Marcel Schwierin)
corporate [work] - Do you know where your brains are? (Florian Wüst)
my [work] - Vom (berufs)tätigen Leben (Florian Wüst)
[work] of violence - Die Neue Ordnung
Globalism and Apathy - A Polemic
Marcel Schwierin, D
"My driver chatted away: 'Is it true that a man in London gets money from the state, even when he isn't working?' (...) If that's the case, London must really be a heavenly place."
The relationship between work and society towards the close of the industrial age is a paradoxical one: the ancient dream of man, to free himself from the drudgery of hard work has long since been realized through machines. Now, at the dawn of the age of information technology, the computer has brought about a deliverance from the most stupid, repetitive tasks. The computer, in reality a dumb machine - it is said that the "intelligence" of a modern computer roughly equals that of a fly - fulfils these tasks more or less reliably and without complaint. Work, which can be rationalized out of human hands into "those" of a computer, is hardly worthy of being carried out by humans.
At the same time, the big industrialized nations have managed in the last, as a rule peaceful decades for them, to amass an unbelievable amount of wealth, outstripping the wealth of past eras many times over (for example, according to the German Federal Bank, the total private savings of Germans in 1996 amounted to five trillion German Marks, in figures 5,000,000,000,000 - without taking into consideration the real value of such objects as buildings and land as well as all public and commercial property). One would think that the conditions were already given for the existence of the ideal society. Nevertheless, joy is seldom to be found. Instead of using the human manpower resources and creativity thus set free, to carry out tasks which make sense - whether in the sense of supposedly exorbitantly expensive needs, e.g. the care of others, or whether in the Marxist sense of achieving freedom by being able to freely choose which work one wants to do - work has become a rare commodity, fought over in the bitterest of ways. Those in the population willing to work fall into two parts: the one, comprising of those who are in employment, work until they drop - not only in intensive productivity, but also due to extensive overtime. Symptoms of stress and the resulting illnesses are increasing at an alarming rate. (Thus, according to an academic report of the Technical College in Cologne, 64 % of all employees were overworked, 93 % lived in fear of losing their job. According to Hesse and Schrader 85 % of salaried personnel in middle management positions suffer from cardiac circulatory complaints and illnesses of the digestive tract and 73 % suffer from spinal problems and diseases of the joints "due to their heavy burden".) The other, smaller section of the population willing to work, do absolutely nothing, because they are not able to find work, this also causing illness: alcoholism, depression etc.
The most amazing aspect of this tragi-comedy is nevertheless, that one has the impression, that nobody has the serious intention of changing the situation. We have been warned about the consequences of technology-based unemployment through the computer since the 60s. At the same time, a model for providing solutions to this problem, which has been favoured by scientists up to this day, has been developed: a basic income, independent of the work one does, which allows each person to either earn as much on top of that according to his needs, or to carry out a totally different, non-commercial activity. However the resonance of society to this and other similar models has been minimal, not taking into account the manifesto of the Green Party. Instead, the same formulas are discussed over and over again, although the ineffectiveness of them has been proved for decades: the dream of never-ending economic growth, falling wages, the doing away with employees' rights, tax reductions for the well-to-do ("achievement must be made worth it again"), subsidies for large corporations, the avoidance of all ecological impediments. None of these measures has been able to stop the rise in unemployment, and this although the digital rationalization of professional life is only in its first stages. The Internet, for example, will cause a great deal of the support media in the information section (CDs, videos, print media) to simply disappear, along with their entire distribution structure - the consequences of this for the employment market are not difficult to foresee.
At this point the question arises, as to why our society seems to face this development in such a blind way, although the large majority of Germans consider it to be the most important question in politics. The capitalist market with its "laws" is treated as if it were a force of nature, as if it would be an absolute blasphemy even to think about the whole thing, as if Homo sapiens, in his 100,000 years of existence, hadn't lived 99,500 of those without capitalism (and its newest achievement, the social market economy, is only a few decades old). Francis Fukuyama's postulated end of history after the fall of the Berlin Wall, is surely, seen in this context, one of the most ridiculous self-overestimations ever of our society.
If one is to believe the prophets of the growth theory, then one must only allow the market forces to do their thing, in order to bring to the world peace and prosperity. However, this theory quickly ends at the borders of the nation states - 89 nations in the world have become poorer in the last 10 years, a third of the world population lives in poverty, 800 million people in the world own about the same amount as half of the world's population together (all data UN 1996). Even if capitalism could overcome its national egoism in order to let the Third World take part in its growth, still it would come up against another limitation: that of the ecological balance. At the moment, less than a quarter of the world's population are making use of three-quarters of the world's natural resources, while producing three-quarters of the waste. If one planned to elevate all the people on earth to our level of wealth through economic growth, this would mean an enormous increase in the level of ecological destruction. Indeed, that which is already tending towards global catastrophe would become certainty. The bargaining in Rio over marginal percentage points would be completely obsolete in the face of these increases.
The possibility of finding a solution to this situation seems hardly imaginable, unless the rich nations of the world, to which we belong, are forced to give up a part of their wealth. The beloved car, the spontaneous trip to foreign lands, the own home, the additional TV, the abundance of exotic fruits; all those things which many here would define as an essential minimum for an existence worth living, could be lost to us. The fun ends here, even for the most enlightened; the five percent limit, around which the Green Party hovers, seems to be expression enough of a guilty conscience, without actually involving any danger for commerce.
Also those who are poorer in a national comparison, seem to be aware that they actually live in wealth when seen in global comparison, but are also aware that real justice however could not stop at national borders. In this way, real solutions aren't discussed, further developed or tried out; rather, rituals such as the "Alliance for Work" are staged, even though nobody believes in their effectiveness - a dance around the Golden Calf.
Shiva Naipaul: Bombay no good, Sahib. Geo 12/1978
Shiva Naipaul: Bombay no good, Sahib. Geo 12/1978
Hesse/Schrader: Die Neurosen der Chefs. München 1996
Studie der Fachhochschule Köln 1996. In: Frankfurter Rundschau 2.6.1996
Florian Wüst, D
Against Good Common Sense or - the Value of Labour
Everybody talks about work. I can't even except myself from the notorious use of this word. The gross amount of all activities is simply termed "work", the self-employed creator of culture can allow himself that.
Franz Schandl has rightly asked, whether we even know what we are talking about, when we speak of work. The German language alone impedes understanding, due to the fact that it does not differentiate between "work" and "labour" as in English. Schandl argues further, "Against common sense, we must keep in mind: work is a market-related activity with the purpose of exploitation". Thus work would be a necessity for modern Homo Oeconomicus, work determines capital and vice versa. Is that also the case in the hemispheres of The New Economy? Capital seems to accumulate on its own, the employees in the services sector ensure the free traffic of information, human productivity stands on the shelf like so many old commodities for rationalisation. The problem with work then, is not that it restricts our freedom, rather that, under the law of merit it doesn't exist any more, at least not there, where it was until now. "In the future, work will be seen as something which one does, and not something which one has." (Klotz)
Maurizio Lazzarato calls this "mass intellectualisation". Since the beginning of the 70s, doing manual labour has involved intellectual activities more and more, "while at the same time the new communications technologies demand subjectivities, which require a great deal of knowledge. (...) Be subjects - that is how the instruction reads which has become the slogan of Western Society" (Lazzarato). The knowledge of the workforce of the information society would become relevant capital, the classic dependencies are turning into their opposites. Neal Stephenson envisions in his cyberpunk bestseller Snow Crash the nervousness of a crude entrepreneur:
"When I have a programmer working under me who is working with that information, he is wielding enormous power. Information is going into his brain. And it's staying there. It travels with him when he goes home at night. It gets all tangled up into his dreams, for Christ's sake. He talks to his wife about it. And, goddamn it, he doesn't have any right to that information. If I was running a car factory, I wouldn't let the workers drive the cars home or borrow tools. But that's what I do at five o'clock each day, all over the world, when my hackers go home from work."
Typically, software developers and engineers in the companies of the information and telecommunications industry are considered to be "artists": ingenious inventors of technical solutions, who do not subject themselves to the rules of industrially planned production processes or the profit expectations of the enterprise, and they often do not even attach the desired importance to the expectations of the customers" (Baukrowitz and Boes).
That doesn't matter. The style of deregulated work models paired with the ambience of innovation, creativity, individuality, orientation towards the future, stands at the very top of the secret list of marketing rhetoric - copied down by those, namely "artists", who don't have the problem of being without work, but rather necessarily exist without money.
And the others? Will the 4 million unemployed in Germany ever enjoy the benefits of being retrained as hackers? Industrial society answers beyond the rhetorical question. As long as the evaluation of work is bound to the logic of exploitation - against common sense, we must keep in mind: he who has no work, has in fact nothing to do.
The crisis of "western civilisation", plagued by self-aggression in the late stages of capitalism is fundamental enough, so that nobody has yet managed to gain an overall view of things. The conditionality of human activity described by Hannah Arendt dodges the national borders of each and every ideology. This time there is no external - such a thing never existed.
Thus, the search for answers remains feverish. Where no answers exist, one questions further. No doubt, in order to calm oneself down. But perhaps the formulation of questions will ever improve, which expressed cinematically would mean the attempt to change the perspectives.
This stimulation could act, at least here, as the subtitle to the film- and video programs of real[work].
Schandl, Franz: Das Heldenlied der Arbeit steht vor seinem Abgesang. Frankfurter Rundschau 27.4.2000
Klotz, Ulrich im Gespräch mit Ina Hönicke: Hierarchien sind die wahren Ideenkiller. Frankfurter Rundschau 3.4.2000
Lazzarato, Maurizio: Immaterielle Arbeit, in: Umherschweifende Produzenten. Berlin 1998, S. 40 - 42
Stephenson, Neal: Snow Crash. New York 1992, S. 116
Baukrowitz, Andrea und Boes, Andreas: Ein neuer Arbeitskrafttyp entsteht. Frankfurter Rundschau 2.3.2000
Marcel Schwierin & Florian Wüst
real[work] - On the selection of Film and Video Programmes
The contents orientation of this year's Werkleitz Biennial makes it obvious, not to restrict itself exclusively to the areas of original artistic works - experimental film and video art, but rather also to take up documentary approaches. The selection chosen by us does not intend to limit itself to the literal topic (somehow falling back on the rich store of film history dealing with industrial labour), but rather presents films and videos, which make possible a new perspective on the complex interrelations between the reality of work and the concept of work.
Three "classic" documentary films - all with apparently value-free, nevertheless precisely observing cameras - describe the conditioning of man to the New World of work:
"Ziele: Die Schulung" from Harun Farocki shows the training of managers (the contemporary hero of work), whose language, mimic and gestures must conform to the fixed canons of convinced optimism.
In "Die Blume der Hausfrau", Dominik Wessely documents the perhaps only job which is offered in abundance: door-to-door salesman. The services employee, as a prototype of the future work model, lies somewhere between entrepreneurial (sub)-self-employment and serf-like dependency in his relations to the industrial client and King customer.
In "Crazy English", the teacher Li Yang walks a bizarre tightrope between collective socialism and individualist capitalism, in that he preaches to stadiums full of Chinese using his own creative grammar of global competition.
"Roger & Me" and "The Target Shoots First" are far more subjective in their approach. While the former takes on the perspectives of redundant workers, Wilcha films in the tradition of the experimental diary films, his own working world in the marketing department of the music giant Columbia House. He describes exactly how he unwittingly promotes the development of more effective operating structures and marketing strategies with his creative ideas. Even his critical reflection of this instrumentalisation is ultimately understood as a contribution to corporate culture.
A central element remained for us the question, what film and video art can contribute to the problematic of work. In a conscious way we have chosen a provocative form in the compilation of the titles as well as the descriptions of the individual programmes. The central point for us, is to transform the deadlocked debate into a somewhat more lively one, at least for the period in which the festival is taking place - which sees the transformation of labour not only as a social catastrophe, but also as a chance, to achieve a new relationship to that which is called work in our society, but which is actually merely seen as a paradigm of exploitation.
leisure [work] - Brothers to the Sun, to Leisure Time!
The leisure society seems to be the only answer of late capitalism to the lack of work; whereby, absurd as it is, it is exactly those people, who are no longer allowed to carry out wage labour and therefore have plenty of free time, are exempt from such leisure activities because they do not have enough money.
Going back to "2001 - A Space Odyssey's" brilliant critique of civilisation by Stanley Kubrick and Bruce Connor's "A Movie", the rocket launches and mishaps in "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz" pick up on the hopes of the 60s of escaping earthly life and its limitations and becomes in this way a caricature of phallic superiority fantasies. The exploding dreams correspond with their failure, but are, on the other hand, like all catastrophes of the media age, a substantial element of entertainment, from which, apparently, is derived the central legitimacy of the entire space travel programme: from science fiction to satellite dishes.
"Kustom Kar Kommandos", as opposed to this, makes a fetish and an irony of a widely spread ritual, the beloved tinkering about with one's car - the comfortable successor to the wild freedom on the back of a horse. The man in this case, in opposition to his usual behavioural role - also swings the washcloth; something which the leisure society otherwise rather leaves to the immigrants, who are equally as cheap as they are without rights.
As in the previously mentioned works, a technical apparatus, the studio trainer, stands at the centre of the film "Ich mache die Schmerzprobe". While at work and in our everyday lives, every movement and bodily exertion is avoided through the use of machines, cars, escalators, electrical kitchen appliances and remote controls, the role of the machine turns itself around in our leisure time, now serving the tiring effort of adapting one's body to the prevailing beauty ideals.
In "All You Can Eat" our attention is drawn away from the user of leisure time entertainment to its protagonists. The sweating, anonymous bodies of the porno actors are re-individualised through the close-up film picture of their faces. One can clearly see the effort of hard work which has absolutely nothing in common with the lust which is supposed to be represented. The underlying stupidly suggestive percussion rhythm of the soundtrack, which on the other hand is designed to show the strenuous mastering of the instrument as being as pleasant and cheap as possible (no more teacher needed), becomes the scorn of the stupid boom boom. "One, two, three, four. It's really very simple. Now we get back again to some more complicated rhythm."
"Long Weekend - XTC" mirrors the esprit of a new generation who carry out a kind of heavy labour in the form of excessive never-ending parties. The classic rhythm of life of the wage labourer, who overworks himself during the week, in order to replenish his energy for work over the weekend, is here turned on its head; the week serves the leisure society as a time for soulless fading away in a hated activity, at the end of which their energies awake.
Through his imaginary fight against a lamp cord "Exercise (Boxing)" transforms the effortless activity of turning out the light into an archaic drama, relict of an age of warriors, at the same time as sweat-inducing as nonsensical. As anti-Prometheus, he symbolizes the yearning of the person for the dark, the refusal of reflection and enlightenment, whose technical symbol is the light bulb, and thus refers to the fundamental reason for the failure of the high hopes of the modern age.
Leonid Petrowich Radin: Brothers to the Sun, to Freedom! Russia around 1905
gender [work] - On the Technology of Gender
The differentiation between men and women seems to be undiminishedly valid in the programme of the globalised working world: whether we consider the chances of promotion to the management levels, the setting of income or sexual harassment in the place of work, women still draw the short straw as much as ever within the competitive framework of the limitless economy. As to how far the trend towards immaterial work has broken through to the social and historical constitution of the woman's role, remains highly questionable. Whereas in the middle of the transformation to a hi-tech information society, (male) manpower is disappearing as a commodity, at the bottom end of this society - whether it's the maquiladoras in the chip factories on the US border to Mexico or immigrants without official documents, who work in German households for hunger wages - the commodity character of the female body and identity is becoming imposed on us in an ever more apparent and lethal way.
The following selection of films and videos reflect the relations between the concrete working conditions of women, the constant reconstruction of gender-defined differences, the (post)-feminist criticism and artistic actions against the naturalization of representation patterns.
Lana Lin's "I Begin To Know You" formulates a visual canon of the traditional role of woman as a home economics producer and services provider. Beneath the apparent fixation of the female (work)place in the world there lurks, however, a conspirative resistance of those affected. The terrorist act is about to happen soon - at least in this programme.
In "Semiotics of the Kitchen" Martha Rosler, one of the most important protagonists of feminist video art in the 70s, reverses the familiar connotations of kitchen appliances into a grammar of aggression and fury. The kitchen becomes the battleground against the myths of domestic everyday life.
In "Wir kennen uns übrigens", Frances Scholz reconstructs the story of the professional utopia of a female entrepreneur, outlined in the political-emancipatory consciousness of the late 60s. The game of performance appropriation of cinematically historic references illustrates the search for one's own artistic identity: "In the face of the inhumane situation, the artist has no option but to heighten the degree of difficulty of his art." (Kluge)
The A-clip "Respeto y Justicia!" brings us back down to hard reality. In this film, women get to speak out, who slave away at the domestic centre of bourgeois orderliness - invisible and without rights. They are held to ransom with the threat of the failure to pay their wages and with the threat of being reported and charged with illegal residency in Germany. Produced as two-minute inserts for the advert reels in commercial cinemas, the A-clips intervene directly with the snappy visual world of western prosperity.
Ursula Biemann's video essay "Performing the Border" encounters the reality of exploitation, sexualisation and serial killing of women in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juarez with a many-layered discourse about the exemplary meaning of the town. The metaphor of the border as an open wound refers to the branding of bodies, "which, in the endless beat of the new international division of labour are ripped open and closed, consumed, reproduced and defined as female." (Volkart)
Kluge, Alexander: Artisten unter der Zirkuskuppel: ratlos. Germany 1968
Volkart, Yvonne: Kriegszonen: Körper, Identitäten und Weiblichkeit in der High-Tech Industrie.
springerin Band 5 Heft 2 1999, p. 42
heroic [work] - The New Human Being
The glass architecture is bringing about the European spiritual revolution, making out of a limited, vain creature of habit an alert, brilliant, fine and tender person.
The idea of the New Human Being was decisive for the whole modern age; in the hope of being in the position to fundamentally transform himself, if the conditions of his life changed accordingly. This project was put most radically into practice in the Soviet Union, which was considered to be the model, which, in being so successful, could serve as an example for all countries. A central element of this enormous transformation, in accordance with Marxist theory, was labour. The result was ultimately, however, not the New Human Being, but rather his caricature, the Homo Sovieticus.
The tractor was perhaps the most meaningful symbol of progress in the Soviet film propaganda; it was supposed to heave the agrarian country of the Czar into the 20th century; it guaranteed the conquering of the terrible famines. "Tractora" underlays discovered propaganda material with a fictitious off-screen voiceover, which intensifies to an orgiastic hymn to the fetishistic machine; the rationalist-technocratic vision of mankind is expelled back to its instinctive structure.
Vladimir Tyulkin's Film "Lord of the Flies" belongs to the literary tradition of Jules Vernes' tale "Two Years Holidays", in which he describes schoolboys who bring into being a rationality-based, ideal world after being stranded from a shipwreck. William Golding's story, "Lord of the Flies" from 1954 takes up the motif of the stranded children, but sketches far more realistically, the development of a despotism in miniature format.
The figure of the fly killer in Tyulkin's film possesses many aspects: as the post-communist version of the hippie dropout, he symbolises the improvised gardening at a datscha, a way in which many Soviet citizens ensured their survival after perestroika at a primitive level. He sways back and forth between the caricature of new entrepreneurship - after all, he has managed to construct an own economic circulation on his land - and the incarnation of the last Stalinists, who are still obsessed with ridding the world of their enemies. Flies have, furthermore, a long tradition in Soviet iconography: their larvae in canteen meat are the trigger of the revolution in "Panzerkreuzer Potemkin", symbolic of the rotten system of the Czar, a metaphor for the later, no less degenerated Soviet system, described in the works of Ilya Kabakov. At the same time flies have always been seen as a worthless life form because of the sheer masses in which they appear and because of their short lifespan, which refers to the Gulag in its purposeful annihilation, but also refers to their ideal disposition as material for scientific experiments, just as the Soviet person in the socialist experiment. The film achieves a particular topicality not only due to the war in Chechna with its undisguised purge terminology, but also of genetic technology, which began with flies and is now being advanced to human beings (Craig Venter is, since his decoding of the drosophila-genom also termed "the Lord of theFlies"). And, it is actually so, that the notion of the New Human Being is enjoying its resurrection through genetic technology.
Hermann Finsterlin, 1920 (Korrespondenz der Gläsernen Kette
needless [work] - Autonomy and Refusal
Artistic activity as the anti-pole to that which is the exclusive meaning of work in the late capitalist era: earning. While "Kugelkopf" and "Ein bewährter Partner" take issue directly with the world of work, all other works are radical refusals of the means/ends relationship; work is hard-going, but leads to nothing.
"Hand Catching Lead" reduces work down to one single gesture, which contains all the attributes of work (material, dirt, effort), but whose function is not recognisable because of the film's cut, hardly different in modern manufacturing, in which each worker often does not any longer know the product, on which he is momentarily working.
The white, life-spending milk in "Untitled (Sex)" stands in stark contrast to the poisonous metal, nevertheless, the very first activity of the human being, namely drinking milk, is transformed into torture through the turning upside-down of the body.
The predictable barren efforts of Baldessari with the unreachable and ungrateful potted plants in "Teaching a Plant the Alphabet" lays open the hardly greater nonsense, which lies behind a majority of human labour: from EU farmers, who harvest their crops alone for the subsequent destruction, to the production of superfluous domestic appliances and on to the work, which would be better left undone, like for example, military activities. They refer to society as "lifelong learning" and permanent retraining.
The adjustment of mankind to production processes, which were driven to perfection under Fordism, are exaggerated by Mara Mattuschka in that she makes her body a part of the machine in "Kugelkopf". Between rationalised technology and an emotional archaic the individual seems to tear apart. This makes even more strange her attempt to sell then the finished film to IBM; less astonishing in the face of this was the consternated reaction of the managers.
In "One Year Performance 1980-1981" the refusal changes into the existential: a whole year, 24 hours a day, in the hourly rhythm of the time-clock, with the single result, that it is being documented. The complete submission of the 168 hour week stands in stark contrast to the absolute uselessness of his doing.
The endlessly drawn out and then cinematically comprimised experience is concentrated into four minutes real time in "Rest Energy", in which Abramovic risks her life in front of a taut sports bow.
"Ein bewährter Partner" was originally an advertising film, which sought to decrease the fear of contact with computers ("trustworthy partner") and to propagate the acceleration of the production process. In the process of copying the film, it has been substantially slowed down, and thus brought into a regular, pulsating rhythm which reminds one of human breathing. The change between light and not-light as well as the material, reduced to black and white, reflect the binary code of the physical-chemical: the digitalised world of machines is set against an older, in this case magic image of the world.
global [work] - Roger & the Cybraceros
Michael Moore highlights in his brilliantly humouristic documentary film the demise of the car producing town of Flint after General Motors transferred its central factory from there to Mexico. The equally comic but hopeless efforts of the town to make something valuable out of the deserted industrial centre in the sense of the modern entertainment business with a luxury hotel, a shopping mall and finally a "Car World" don't only remind us of certain similar projects in Germany, but also of the bizarre attempts to retrain the long-term unemployed to become IT geniuses.
It remains questionable, however, whether his precise description of the situation on location really deals with the complexity of global problems (as the medium of film finds it difficult anyway, to illustrate the more and more immaterial becoming economic and working processes; see also Baumgärtel 1). Thus it would certainly be worth discussing, whether the job positions aren't actually more necessary in poor Mexico than in the over-wealthy USA. The manager "Roger" who he challenges to a media duell in the way of the American pioneer times, as if he were the only responsible villain, is ultimately subject to the same market laws as the workers who are made redundant by him; whereas in the age of speculation, the real relevance of a change of location hardly seems to play a role any more, in contrast to the strong effect it has on the extremely nervous investor's mentality.
"Why Cybraceros?" develops a fundamentally different view of the problematic of globalisation; not the almighty economic tycoons, who can easily be condemned like politicians, but rather the American society as a whole is held responsible by Alex Rivera. Its schizophrenic desire for cheap workers to carry out non-rationalisable dirty work and at the same time its aggressive defence of ethnic homogeneity is a phenomena, also too well-known in Germany.
1 Baumgärtel, Tilman: "You've just been erased!" in: catalogue Sub Fiction, volume 2. Werkleitz 1998
corporate [work] - Do you know where your brains are?
Artists and activists have developed, over the last decades, practices towards the subversive appropriation of the terminology and working methods of politics, economics and media. Paper Tiger Television in New York is one of the most important examples for how, using creative means, one can transmit critical contents in the arena of national tele-communities. The own camcorder and Public Access TV channels contain the A to Z of the formula: Taking control of our Images - and Lives.
Whereas Paper Tiger Television aimed above all at the representational monopoly of the media, the artists' group ®ark aims its actions and discourses against the unbridled power of corporations.
®ark calls upon workers, employees and the self-employed to take part in their contemporary assault on machinery, although they themselves offer a corporate format, which is worth investing in." ®ark has helped fund the sabotage or subversion of dozens of corporate products. As a privately held corporation, ®ark allows investors to participate in blacklisted or illegal cultural production with minimum risk."
The radicalism of this artistic practice gains through the potential of the Internet a new dimension, what the so-called "Toywar" (www.toywar.com) recently proved: in a net activist campaign without comparison, the net art platform etoy succeeded in defending its domain name against the imperial demands of the E-commerce giant eToys. (Conspicuous here, is that the game with the military jargon of "Toywar" ultimately gives a taste of the secret motto of the belligerent culture of our times: pacifism of the left, onto the scrapheap).
"As ordinary corporations are solely and entirely machines to increase their shareholders' wealth (often to the detriment of culture and life) so ®ark is a machine to improve its shareholders' culture and life (sometimes to the detriment of corporate wealth)." As obvious as the machine-likeness of economic structures is, it still requires people, who invest their "subjectivity", in order to keep running the exploitation for exploitation's sake. To be taken from Harun Farocki: "Ziele: Die Schulung" documents the learning process of male managers, which is meant to serve the aim of making the managers stand up for themselves in the day-to-day business dealings and in their relations with customers and subordinates. Maximising success is only to be guaranteed through maximum identification. "The souls of the employees must become part of the company, is what they say in modern management consulting language." (Lazzarato)
Attractive perspectives then for the autonomous spirit on the upswing of immaterial work. Or would you be interested in alternatives? Then you can safely switch over to (r)(tm)ark's advertising trailer "Bringing IT to YOU!" Afterwards two representatives from ®ark will gladly inform you of further projects and offers. And feel free to ask, should you have any questions!
Lazzarato, Maurizio: Immaterielle Arbeit, in: Umherschweifende Produzenten. Berlin 1998, p 41
my [work] - Concerning (professionally) Active Life
Behind the co-ordinates of anonymous statistics, the demoscopy of the TV ratings and the official language of denotation there is still the individual person. We are far enough away from George Lucas' vision in "THX 1138", in which the members of a synchronised society are only identified as numbers in the daily monotony of work and entertainment. On the other hand, we know only too well that "all human activities are conditioned by the fact that human beings live together" 1 (Arendt). Our being does not seem imaginable without the influence of societal surroundings. That means, that one's own reality is instantaneously fictionalised at the moment of identification with character patterns, ideals and dreams. A totalitarian state system is far from necessary nowadays, to produce the ideological pattern of individual life designs in our present day of progressing mediatisation and commercialisation.
This programme dedicates itself to the charm of personal stories about life, employment/unemployment and about activity, which are presented using simple means, in part so pertinently, as if they were simply read from the cover of the grand narratives.
The model "Familie Strassburger" open themselves to the questions of Bill Meyers, who was able to carry out a cinematic-sociological investigation of the working population in the GDR in 1987. With amazing powers of persuasion and in no way illogical arguments, mother, father, daughter and son sing a song of praise to the social structure of the GDR. All aspects of daily life appear in this way to be a kind of work, duty-bound to be carried out.
The transfers of the ideological rival, the "American way of life", follow in "Meet The People". Shelly Silver choreographs the statements of various people to create a piece about careers and life's circumstances, about ideas, dreams and hopes. Towards the end the seeming authenticity of the characters reveals itself as the material for a construction kit of tailor-made identities, known from film and TV.
With "Zwischen vier und sechs" Corinna Schnitt paints a wondrous portrait of a (her) family in the west of Germany, in which the strictness of one's own morals seems to be elevated above all categories - from alienated work to leisure time stress. A parable about a mentality, which can't restrain its eagerness even beyond the working week.
Attention in the ranks! To actually take or leave the world as it is, is at least promised in "Wolkenbügel" through the view and declarations of the crane driver Hermann Wallner while he works. Alexander Binder and Stefan Hafner create herewith a relationship to real life, which often enough gets lost on the large building sites of the global market economy.
Like a counter image to the avatar-like characters in "Meet the People", the filmmaker Stefan Hayn describes in "Ein Film über den Arbeiter" his own experiences in ever-changing student jobs. His personal reflection about the circumstance of wage labour intersects with the undisguised credentials of the present time, in which the large corporate(politics), using its bare hands, interferes with the lives of people.
In Sandrine Dryver's "Alter/Egaux" unemployed people ultimately tell us in short and emphatic statements about the loss of their identity as well as their conflicting relations to wage labour. Especially marked are the distinctions between the discourses of France and Germany: while here one perceives an almost creeping subservience of public opinion vis-à-vis the gentlemen of capital, in the French-speaking territory there is a far more active and critical confrontation, which by no means is restricted to the sectors of the feuilleton.
1 Arendt, Hannah: Vita Activa oder Vom tätigen Leben. Munich 1981, p. 27
[work] of violence - The New Order
War destroys everything that human beings have built up; that is the perversity of work. Nevertheless to be a soldier is a profession like all others: there are training, universities, talents, career ladders, and finally, pensions. And there are unemployed people.
The more than senseless leisure activities of the young soldiers in "Coup de Boule" - they hit their heads against the doors - remind of hospitalism and give rise to the sensation of extreme brutalisation. These are exercises of violence, the capability to disregard the needs of the own body; it is on the one hand a physical expression of the acceptance of the individual's trained worthlessness, and on the other hand, also the attempt to symbolically destroy the compulsory organisation (and, in fact, the lockers get their bit).
"It is over, Johnny, it is over!"
"Nothing is over! Nothing! You can't simply stop. (...) We have gone through hell. (...)
Over there I flew a helicopter, or I drove a tank, I was responsible for a one million dollar piece of equipment and here I don't even get a job as a park keeper." Sylvester Stallone as Vietnam veteran in "First Blood" 1
The situation illustrated by "The Crime That Changed Serbia" is typical for societies after lost wars. The soldiers, often recruited at a very young age, have passed through a dreadful training and all that is left to them as a central value are surviving, killing, robbing, raping and male companionship. They cannot cope with the comparably complicated structures of civil life. As loser and thus guilty they are not welcomed (other than by Mafiosi gangs). The shapings of this social destabilisation are different, after World War I veteran's associations in Italy and the Freikorps in the Weimar Republic laid the foundation stone for Fascism and National Socialism, while in the individualistic system of the USA the Vietnam veterans disappeared into the bushes and continued to live out their bizarre world view. All protagonists have in common that they continue to simply exercise their learned profession.
However, these conditions can be seen in a wider context: for years social scientists have warned about the consequences of structural unemployment which permanently excludes entire population groups from earnings. There, those who are stigmatised as useless lazybones, in our performance-oriented society - which is often accompanied by ethnic discrimination - form their own value systems, oriented at the ideals of the heroic eras: strength, struggle, family.
"If the social consequential problems of the changes in East Germany, and beyond that in Eastern Europe are not solved, then we can see already now the consequences which certainly will lead to completely new costs, e.g. those of inner state armament towards the outside: against radicals, against poverty refugees, against victims of civil wars, against nationalistically overlayed conflicts in the East, etc. We are talking about social interests. What shall the wealth of this society be used for: for social peace or for police and military actions." (Huster) 2
1 Kotcheff, Ted: First Blood (aka Rambo). USA 1982
2 Huster, Ernst Ulrich: Unternehmen und Selbständige sind die Sieger im Verteilungskampf. Frankfurter Rundschau 1.9.1993