Working Bodies Five publications about different notions of work
The concepts of work, employment, production, contracts and salaries are undergoing continual transformations within our neoliberal, postcolonial and digital societies. These transformations directly affect the sustainability of life, as well as our physical and mental health. Because of this, it is essential to discover new forms of associations, communalisms and activisms that may help us to combat the precariousness of life.
We are reissuing a series of MACBA publications, as well as a podcast, in which the following authors address the subject: Jonathan Crary in Quaderns portàtils #8 ; Devine Fore in the essay Los nuevos productivismos (The New Productivisms); María Ruido in the RWM podcast Estat del malestar (The State of Distress); Andrea Fraser in her publication From the Critique of Institutions to an Institution of Critique ; César Rendueles in the essay Comunismos por venir (Future Communisms); and Daniel Spaulding as one of the contributors to the publication Charlotte Posenenske. Work in Progress.
Quaderns portàtils #8. On the Ends of Sleep: Shadows in the Glare of a 24/7 World. Jonathan Crary
«Sleep is an unreasonable, unacceptable affirmation that there might be limits and thresholds posed by living beings to the allegedly irresistible forces of modernization. One of the familiar truisms of contemporary critical thought is that there are no unalterable givens of nature – not even mortality, according to some. To insist otherwise, to believe that there are any ‘essential’ features that distinguish living beings from machines is, we are told, naive and nostalgic. What does it matter, many will insist, if new drugs could allow someone to work at their job for a hundred hours straight? Couldn’t flexible sleeping allow more personal freedom, the ability to customize one’s life further in accordance with special needs and desires? Wouldn’t less sleep allow more chance for ‘living life to the fullest’?»
Devin Fore «Arbeit sans phrase», within the publication Los nuevos productivismos
«As Ehrenburg explains, the speechlessness of the workers is not simply the result of the deafening din of the factory, for the workers remain silent even after they have left the workplace. At home, too, they have nothing to say. “They don’t speak to one another. Gradually they forget human words, words that are warm and rough like sheep’s wool or like clods of freshly ploughed earth.” This muteness proliferates to envelop all aspects of their lives. The result: “It seems that [the worker] has unlearned how to speak.”»
María Ruido Estado de malestar (State of Discomfort)
“I am beginning to think about how work makes us sick, about how work pushes us to the point of exhaustion, stress and anxiety. I am starting to talk to friends about how we are doing, and we are all sick. We’re stressed, we’re anxious, we’re depressed. Those of us with jobs are overworked, and paid ridiculously low wages. On top of that, we work very hard, because we have to keep up a really expensive life in which we are always paying for stuff. Those who don’t have jobs are worried because they are jobless. Kids are worried because their prospects are... doomed from the very start, it deeply upsets and distresses me. There are two sides: cynicism and a twenty-year-old who’s doomed from the outset. You start talking and you realise the discomfort we are going through. Then I start to think about a state that is the opposite of the welfare state”.
«Guided Tours. ‘Isn’t this a Wonderful Place?’», within the publication Andrea Fraser: De la crítica institucional a la institución de la crítica
«In the context of neo-liberal economic regimes, the art museum is emerging as a privileged site for valorizing the precarization of work. Through representations of art and artists, architecture and architects, flexibility, spontaneity, customized products, individualized relations of production, and even insecurity itself are represented as positive values, sources of creativity, dynamism and growth. The products of disempowerment are transformed into promises of freedom and previously unimagined pleasure.»
César Rendueles «BAD NEWS: MATERIALISM. Notes for a praxeological reformulation of the materialist programme», within the publication Comunismos por venir
“One of the most outrageous examples is the recent fad in trend magazines of coming up with neologisms and aesthetic expressions to put a cool spin on poverty and precariousness: nesting (staying at home at the weekend), workcation (not taking holidays), wardrobing (buying clothes and returning them after wearing them), job sharing (underpaid part-time jobs), sinkies (couples who can’t afford to have children), coliving (having to share a flat owing to a lack of income)…”.
Daniel Spaulding «Unworking Posenenske», within the catalogue Charlotte Posenenske: Work in Progress by Charlotte Poseneske
«What is remarkable about this particular exit is that it led Posenenske to another vocation — the sociology of labor — which she then pursued with hardly less resolve, and which retrospectively throws another light on her practice up to 1968. For indeed one of the most notable characteristics of her sculptures is that they involve work. They involved the artist’s own intellectual labor in the design of Series D and Series E, as well as the labor of the fabricators tasked with their physical construction. But her art’s spectators, or participants, do work, too.»