AT YOUR SERVICE – ART AND LABOUR comes to Zagreb
The exhibition illustrates the artists’ approaches on the rapid transformation of labour processes, with a focus on the impact of mechanisation on people’s lives. The initiative brings in discussion both the opportunities and the risks of contemporary labour forms.
The exhibition opens at the Technical Museum in Zagreb on 27 March and can be visited until 30 September 2014. The opening includes a performance by Moldovan artist Pavel Braila, who brings a tribute to the typewriter, inviting people skilled in typing to simultaneously perform on old typewriter machines. The same intervention was performed at the exhibition openings in Austria, and its video was awarded with the Celeste Prize 2013 in the category Animation & Video.
For the exhibition, artists Pavel Braila, Anna Jermolaewa, Daniel Knorr and Ulrike Lienbacher were invited to produce art works on the theme of labour, which are to be integrated into the Museum’s permanent exhibition as art interventions. Videos by Harun Farocki, Adrian Paci and Anne Tallentire complement the spectrum.
The artists pointedly address a range of topical issues: How is labour changing? When is it a privilege, and when is it a burden? What does it mean when workflows are automated? Is our knowledge-based society and service economy the future of our working life? What does it mean to be flexible and mobile? How do work and unemployment affect the way we perceive ourselves?
“This exhibition has given us the opportunity to invite artists to produce new works of art. On the one hand, these works focus on current socio-political issues, such as labour market flexibility and migration. On the other hand, they explore the differences between working processes requiring in-depth knowledge and a high degree of technology and personnel-intensive processes, such as services. The interdependence of the Austrian labour market with those of Central and Eastern Europe also plays a role here”, says Christiane Erharter, one of the curators of the exhibition.
Some of the artists come from migrant backgrounds themselves or from Eastern Europe and have first-hand knowledge of the stories they depict in their works.
Born in Chişinău/Moldova; lives in Berlin and Chişinău.
A Tribute to the Typewriter: The Ink Ribbon’s Fingerprints, 2012
Braila considers what sort of work and what sort of machines are created or eliminated as a result of technological development. An oversized keyboard in which a typewriter and a computer are overlaid provides the model for the associative links in Braila’s video: from anecdotes on the development of the typewriter to the emergence of new professions and the resulting emancipation of women as well as the digital networking of man and machine.
Shoes for Europe, 2002
This video by Braila looks at a geographical-political aspect of mobility. A quirk of history has meant that there is a difference in the track gauge on the border between Romania and Moldova, and as a result trains have to be heaved onto suitable bogies in heavy-duty work.
Born in Saint Petersburg/Russia; lives in Vienna.
Northern Railway, 2012
Jermolaewa talked to commuters about their working lives, what it’s like to commute, and their personal and family aspects. Three of them are portrayed in videos to have their say: they are commuters who look after people with care needs in Austria.
Born in Bucharest/Romania; lives in Berlin.
Begging Robot Alpha & Beta, 2012
Knorr’s robot carries out a special kind of work: it is a begging robot, who is busy working in the Museum. In reference to the law of robotics formulated by science fiction author Isaac Asimov stating that “a robot must protect its own existence”, the money raised through begging is used for repairs or to manufacture other robots. Knorr’s ultimate aim is to manufacture the begging robot as an industrial production-line product.
Born in Oberndorf/Austria; lives in Salzburg and Vienna.
Elite | Bodies, 2012
Lienbacher explores the human body under the aspects of optimisation, standardisation, supervision and performance. Here the human body marked by heavy-duty work is replaced by the fully trained body. Lienbacher features a layout modelled on a fitness studio, comprising dumbbells and weights made of alienated material. In cooperation with the Vienna Porcelain Manufactory Augarten they have been replicated in porcelain true to form. Sport and work are also associated with each other in additional videos.
This art work by Lienbacher refers to outside scrutiny. Inside the Museum she has positioned a large number of mirrors used in industrial halls to monitor workers. The mirrors rotate at random like instruments of anonymous observation controlled by an invisible hand.
Born in Nový Jičín/Czech Republic; lives in Berlin.
Comparison via a Third, 2007
In a double projection Farocki shows various work methods used in Africa, Asia and Europe to manufacture bricks and erect buildings. Although manufacture is now increasingly automated, various production stages continue to run in parallel. The video questions the matter-of-course acceptance of the automated production on show here – but without making a value judgement.
Born in Shkoder/Albania; lives in Milan.
Turn on, 2004
Every day unemployed men gather in the Albanian town of Shkoder in the hope that someone will give them work. In Paci’s video these job seekers start up generators and use light bulbs to illuminate their own resigned faces. The generated energy literally highlights their difficult situation, their untapped manpower.
Born in Co. Armagh/Northern Ireland; lives in London.
Drift: diagram xii, 2002/2012
Filmed at different times of the day and night, Tallentire focuses on often overlooked activities of people working in London’s financial district. The video features people doing work that is necessary to keep the city going, thereby the question of which work receives attention or goes unnoticed is addressed.
Project Team / Technisches Museum Wien: Elisabeth Limbeck-Lilienau, Christine Lixl, Roswitha Muttenthaler
Curators: Silvia Eiblmayr (curator and member of the art advisory council of “Kontakt. The Art Collection of Erste Group and ERSTE Foundation“) and Christiane Erharter (curator at Programme Culture, ERSTE Foundation)
For additional information: http://tehnicki-muzej.hr/
Director of Technical Museum Zagreb
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