real[work] - Bildende Kunst
Die Stadt ist auch da, wo das Land ist
No more reality! 1 was the battle-cry of the children at a small demonstration in Nice, instigated by Philippe Parreno, a protest against the media-induced reality fixation of the adult world. And now, a festival titled real[work]. It is obvious that in this festival the focus is not on the presentation of journalistic or media reality, but on the questions arising from this reality,- it is not the occasion in which answers can be formed, but an opportunity to take a closer look at definitions and attitudes concerning our present notion of “work”: What is the definition of work, what does it include, and what does it possibly exclude? What is the history of work, and who is writing that history? What will be the future of our current definitions of work?
Already in 1958, Hannah Arendt pointed out, that profession and the notion of work had taken on a monopoly in our way of thinking,- in a so called working society we define ourselves and our position in this society by our jobs 2- what we do and how well we do it. This monopoly needs to be examined,- particularly at this point in time, at which the notion of work we grew up with might no longer be a common experience.
The massive loss of employment not only in industrial production is flanked by an increasingly expanding service- and information-economy, which nevertheless has not been able to absorb the increasing numbers of job-seekers. Basic changes do not only affect the number of jobs available, but also the character of the work to be done. New technologies engender new forms of communication and organisation, a de-regulation of company structures and hierarchies into small efficiency-oriented units has led to de-bureaucratisation of procedures and behavioral patterns, but also gives rise to insecurities concerning commitments and dependancies. Questions concerning personal security and a re-evaluation of experience arise not only on an individual-, but also on a societal level. The new buzzword is “immaterial work” 3, not only describing the traditional employment as a mutual exchange of work for money, but also a diversity of newly formed social relationships, fields of activity and professions which subsequently cause a calling for a re-evaluation of decisive capacities, the abilities to learn and to communicate, self-responsibility and creativity 4 as new characteristics re-defining the notion of work.
The transformation of an “industrial society” into a “communication society” also requires a critical re-examination of a catalogue of virtues emerging from the values created in the cultural sector. Some of these values currently reappear in economic contexts: What are the risks and chances of an increasingly positive evaluation of notions such as independence and creativity, self-responsability, social and economic competence? What are the consequences of an inflation of “free agents” floating in existing and newly created voids - while in turn, “work” as definition is expanding to encompass everything and everybody, social relationships and artistic activity. What kind of commitments, in turn, can a notion of culture encompass in the future? Corresponding with the near future, or even the present moment, the relevant question might be whether artistic practice can provide new methods of self-determined activity, or whether it will take on a differentiated animation of leisure and the securing of a precarious social peace? ” … the abandoned industrial wasteland, the smell of production still in the air; the wide ex-LPG fields; the cowering and uninviting facades, linked by cobbled streets …” 5
The villages of Werkleitz and Tornitz are situated in the county of Schönebeck, Saxony-Anhalt; The unemployment rate here exceeds 20 %. These numbers are not a unique phenomena, but somewhere close to the top, in worldwide comparison 6. In the face of these statistics, the abundance of international symposiums, and in the face of the individual’s reality of life, an exhibition of contemporary visual art on the topic most certainly is a somewhat risky project. But it can also offer an opportunity to prepare our thought processes for the developments to be expected. In spite of the personal hardships it might be possible to open up new expanses for our minds: to take the crisis as an opportunity 7, to reconsider societal utopias and to rephrase relevant questions together with others, to dream up ideas, to recall past visions and to open up new vistas for the future. In this process, the questions come boumeranging back to art: Which role will it play in a society in which a notion of work corresponding to the validity of regular employment and the ideal of full employment is dissolving? Does the artistic model of “work” have anything to offer to inspire a new definition of work and what could this be?
Art may actually be facing the same kind of crisis as work. Here, too, we can detect transformational processes, necessitating a confrontation with changing demands created by new communicational technologies, new forms in the attempt to secure individual existence, and a re-definition of the structures of this society through globalisation. Here, too, the conditions require new behavioral patterns, and, here too, they might also lead to the emergence of a fundamentally different practice.
The definition of work in the art world has changed drastically within the past few years. Art has adopted methods of production and approaches from the economic and social realms. Products are being developed, artists are presenting their work within a functional context, which at the same time provides a comment. The design of micro-societal structures itself has become the subject of artistic projects. It therefore seems an obvious and necessary task to seriously examine the status quo in contemporary art, and to consider an enlarged definition of culture, as a pool of new genres of societal practice, - in which the production of images, such as in film, video and painting or in “real” scenarios takes on as important a role as does the evaluation of everyday life and history, the mediation between social units, and the creation of new societal contexts.
The improbability of an international biennale in two tiny villages in an economically weak region corresponds with the potential of art and cultural creation as such: to make things happen, and, in a model-like approach, to inspire the development of new modes of activity and thought, and with “professional” detachment, critical distance or even anger and to pit these against “that-which-is”. This current exhibition purposely imports views and attitudes which call attention to the history of the site through an encounter of artistic practice and the people and situation present. The Werkleitz Biennale is foremost an experiment of art in public space, which in the way it totally encompasses both villages could not be any more public. This requires not only the commitment of the viewer 8, but also an ability to balance the artistic scope of activity, which is not limiting itself to a ratification of the actual reality, but is changing or honing the perception of the already familiar. Even though this exhibit, at this particular time and at this particular site, is unique, it should not be descriptive of the status quo, but more of an encounter. Questions on the present and the future situation of work are currently asked not only in Schönebeck, but globally. This exhibit should be transferrable to any other location, if not in its results, but in terms of the thoughts responding to the specific location.
The specific and very varied capabilities/competences and methodic approaches ranging from the traditional production of images, analysis of everyday culture and the mediation of social interconnections contributed by the artists invited exemplify a very wide spectre and status quo in contemporary art and cultural approaches. At this point in time, at which the art world seems equally given to emphasizing marketable “profiles” of intellectual or painterly qualities, of technical specifications or questions of more or less “autonomy”, it seems important to us to show a wide range of current art production, to contrast the existing contradictions and opposed positions, but also to trace the common grounds of shared attitudes and conclusions.
The sketching of positions within this “Manual/text” wants to situate the artistic attitudes within the exhibition; a major part of the works described refers to past activities of the artists. A catalogue to be published after the exhibit will document the realisation of the different projects and will reflect on the encounters which actually took place.
What is work, where does it happen 9 and who gets it done 10? These are the questions raised by the recycling-projects by Nana Petzet. Trying to get a grasp on her own household’s garbage, in 1995 she developed her own recycling model “Sammeln Bewahren Forschen” (Collecting Maintaining Researching) (SBF). Choosing as a motto “We make the promises of the Green Point come true” (the current German recycling concept, within which companies pay for membership in order to have their packaging material collected and recycled; their products are identifiable by a “green point”, also called the Dual System), she collected one-way packaging material and turned it into decorative handmade objects of daily use - milk-cartons, cleaned and unfolded, were turned into necessaires, paravents or doormats. While her hard work producing these objects, and the swift growth of her material stores by simply shopping every day humorously comments on the absurdity of the Dual System, the reshuffling of labour into private households caused by it and the bizarre logic of our production system 11, exhibiting these objects gave the exchange of ideas related to them more and more importance. She received gadgets and objects of use from all over the world 12, things which had been made from trash, or repaired in an ingenious way by some thrifty person. The objects given to her soon made up a collection, and while giving fresh impulses to her research and maintenance, in the end called for a museum of their own.
Aernout Mik’s combination of architecture and images inserted by video projection puzzle the viewer by making orientation difficult, and by denying an easy identification of the activities of the people shown. The activities often seem contradictory, as in the video work “Garage”, which shows a group of people stand together silently, seemingly content with each other’s company. Sipping their drinks, they unexpectedly spit the liquid back into their glasses and, in a sudden outburst of activity, shove one of their companions out of the group. The static camera raises the question of the possible radius of activity outside of the picture, alluding to our fragmentary perception, limited by the scope of the medium, which makes it impossible to really grasp the situation, the rules of the game and its spatial conditions. 13
A new ideology of work in the post-Fordian production model 14 is the topic of Ingo Vetter and Annette Weisser in their comparative research on the working conditions in the areas of the creative service industry and contemporary artistic production 15. In interviews with artists, graphic designers and marketing experts similar visions are expressed for the organisation of everyday life and work, while the job conditions are described as increasingly precarious. In their architectural models Vetter and Weisser have realised the collected ideas. Flexible office interiors, combined with half-pipes and slides show the increasing intertwinedness of work and leisure, a willingness to take risks, and a flexible disposition of private personality and manpower 16. An adaptation of a comic-strip shows Batman transforming from a factory worker’s hero into a “highly motivated, responsible and flexibly employable, free-lancing citizen”. This project alludes to the opportunities and the risks of “immaterial work”, in which the estrangement seems to be overcome 17 , but in return, subjectivity and communication have become economic factors.
Communication as a realm of work, beyond the inter-personal level, requires the spreading of ideas. ZAPP MAGAZINE 18 was founded in 1993 by the artist Rob van den Ven and the art historian Corinne Groot. Co-founders were the artists Arnold Mosselman and Harald van Noordt (first issue # 0 in November 1993). Correspondents of the, in the beginning very simply manufactured video magazine, are friends from all over the world, artists, curators, galerists, here and abroad. Within a short time the structure of their work changed: from a nearly private, “close-to-home” environment to an international network of shared interests. The annual compilation documents exhibitions, performances and video art in an international context, and gives space to established artistic positions as well as to young up-starts, and makes available the information and the knowledge of a small international art community.
Just as one can read architecture in order to find out how people live, work and organise their days, the materials used to construct these buildings can inform us about the state of affairs and priorities 19 of a society.
The understanding that rooms and spaces are not neutral, but informers on complex societal structures, has led Franka Hörnschemeyer to examine the use of building materials such as gipsum boards and monocoque-elements, which were developed to meet the standards of a society bent on speedy and rational construction. These materials are used to erect constructions informed by the basic measures of floor plans, present and past uses and movement in the space of the buidings she reacts to, encoded as data or histories. As abstract constructions of physical perception of space, they juxtapose the surfaces of the examined architectural examples with their own raw quality 20.
The increasing independancy of surface aesthetics from functional content in an economy making the transition from heavy industry to service is also at the core of Adam Page and Eva Hertzsch’s “products”. The speedy opening up of the new federal states by the free market 21 paved the way for a blanket application of economical strategies which have rapidly established themselves to become our everyday standard. With projects like ZWISCHENSTATION and GEWERBEPROJEKT (Office to rent) in 1995, EXECUTIVE BOX for the documenta X in Kassel and the mobile SECUROPRODS.(c), Page and Hertzsch call the parameters of these strategies to our attention by means of slightly shifted adaptions. The “Office to Rent” consisted of rotating dry wall panels, which, though a practical solution, pointed to the denial of local identity in today’s fast-track building industry. By a simple turn of the wall-panels, the unrenovated space could be transformed into a professional, efficient-looking office, manifesting a dramatic illustration of short-term identity management at the command of new economic demands.
The changed demands and work profiles of the service economy have also led to changes in our dress code. The male business suit has survived its way from the administrative offices and boardrooms to the nowadays large acceptance and use in vast parts of the population nearly unchanged. “The development of the formal and public staging of male presentation is closely tied to the history of the business suit. (…) For the past 150 years men in suits have represented competence, power and sex appeal. 22” In a series of video installations, Maria Friberg has staged the role of the suit as a uniform and as a protective armour, and by exposing typical weak spots of this garment and its wearers has unmasked our perception of the suit as an unreliable normative factor, situating the wearer somewhere on the vertical ladder of success. A re-animated dress code is recalled: whereas during the sixties, nobody described wearing a suit as pleasant, the relationship of men and women to this kind of attire - even in the so-called Boheme,- has fundamentally changed. The video installation “Confront Me Back” shows an inconspicious gentleman, wearing a grey three-piece suit, seated in a similarly understated interior of a limousine, almost imperceptivly sliding up and down and doubling up for unknown reasons. His movements draw attention to the body 23 within the suit, exposing its security and power as relative 24.
Ute Richter, on the other hand, examines in several projects the self-comprehension and the role of the artist and his or her relationship to the audience, outside the exhibition space and institutions. Which is the space opened up by artistic design when it enters societal contexts and everyday life? The simple instruction of pupils in France not to leave their schoolbags in a chaotic heap, but to put them down in agreement with a marked grid system on the school-yard 25, put up this question in an unspectacular way, - and also which kind of aesthetic one may meet outside of exhibition spaces - and how to encounter it. The flag for Werkleitz picks up on the colonialisation of the public space in the new federal states by marketing master plans, as well as the seemingly increasing general need to be publicly visible through advertisement and other marketing strategies, applying to cultural institutions as well as to private companies, which all need to compete for attention by using whatever is available.
In the conception of the work society, production and work are inseparably tied together. Within the production logic and the organisation of work based on the division of labour, culture is turned into another article produced for consumption, produced by a few specialists 26. The Stockholm record label Make It Happen represents the effort to contradict this narrowing commercialisation of culture by overturning a passive consumerist attitude. It is an informal cooperation of artists and musicians, which has adopted the, in a way old-fashioned, production technologies which have coincidentally become available and produces records in a wide variety of musical styles: Jazz, Pop, Punk, Rock, Chanson, Ambient with a DIY attitude and a focus on fun instead of profile; an attitude which also marks their live appearances.
A relatively new phenomenon in today’s economy is the so-called “life-style industry”, a branch which is based on the capitalist principle of individuation and which today is able to satisfy a very wide market at very low prices, by finding cheaper and cheaper production sites outside of Europe. Karl Holmqvist, also a member of Make It Happen, has adopted an informal attitude, the artist as an entrepreneur, closer to observation than to production. His subjective approach to the things we see around us prefers the hand-made to massproduction. His readings are monotone recitals of marketable pop songs. He flippantly turns the consumer-producer relationship around, and poetically puts up the question (To learn to appreciate things made with the heart is one step towards art) whether by enthusiastically accepting the offerings of global capitalism we might be made to trip over our own legs.
The fashion label BLESS (Ines Kaag and Desiree Heiss), two young fashion designers from Berlin and Paris, behaves purposely unpredictable. Guided by their very own personal interests, product-ideas are pursued focussing on solutions to tiny questions of detail, to be applied in very different areas of daily life. Their production is always unique, marked by the recycling and adaptation of unexpected items, put to use in a totally new way. By reducing their production to accessoires, as the purest form of fashionable disfunctionality, they deliberately reject the creation of pre-fab identity, maybe taking the customer even more serious than he or she cares to be taken. By being highly extravagant, their products unavoidably stimulate a conscious handling and awareness of the accessoires as signals of social identity 27. Wearing a fur wig, a boot sock or a scarf made up of individual garments necessitates communication, and liberates from bashful uniformity and encourages the customers to an active, self-confident attitude towards style- “Bless, fucks up every style”. Their products are advertised worldwide by magazines and postcards, they circulate in different numbers ranging from very small to unlimited editions. Their appearance exemplifies the mechanisms of the fashion industry while simultaneously submitting their analysis.
The global market economy functions by exploiting the differences between supply and demand, or, in other words by taking advantage of the gap between poor and rich regions. In the work of Olaf Nicolai, the subject of economy 28 has entered under various circumstances. Whereas his biotopias, presented at the documenta X, indirectly posed the question of how to create an artificial nature, his unrealised proposal to connect two cultural institutions with each other, very directly created an economic relationship. Invited to the exhibit “After the Wall” in the Stockholm Moderna Museet, Nicolai contributed the suggestion for an “Ambiente/ Transfer”. The Museum was to take down the old lighting fixtures of the Museum für Junge Kunst in Frankfurt/Oder and set it up however it chose to as part of the exhibit. In return the museum in Stockholm would have been obliged to install a new, modern lighting system in Frankfurt/Oder. This suggestion did not only refer to the different economic situation of the two institutions, but also commented on the basic assumptions underlying the exhibit “After the Wall”.
Ever since antiquity our understanding of work and leisure is that of a pair of opposites. The idea of physical fitness is a relatively new one and has only in the last centuries gained acceptance as a popular interest, not only for the elites 29. Its rise is closely tied to the demise of physically hard labor. Various campaigns enlightened citizens on the benefits of actively pursuing fitness. In order to unburden the health-insurances in the West, and as a way of publicly fostering these ideals, fitness-parcours were set up everywhere. The Eastern equivalent was the works sports organisation: The Swiss artists Lang/Baumann have picked up on the aesthetics of the fitness and leisure movement and in different interior settings have paid homage to the nostalgical re-appearance of the fitness-fashion of the Seventies. The viewer is playfully confronted with the question of what happens when jogging suits become items of fashion, and whatever happened to the old opposites of work and leisure? These questions are particularly relevant since during the eighties the body and its “shape” became part of a catalogue of criteria for the evaluation of personal success.
Not only is our definition of work dominated by so-called gainful employment, but it is also concentrated around rigid, formalised structures within time and hierarchy. This is one of the reasons why work at home, as a homemaker and caring for children receives very little attention, and at the same time keeps those involved in it from making it in other fields of work. Frauke Gerhard has taken her own reality as an artist and a mother as the basis of a living-and-working project, in which it seemed possible to overcome the contradictions in the way our societies seperate both realms of life. Taking up “godmothership” of a neglected playground in the direct vicinity of her Cologne home, she initiated the “non-profit, generation overlapping art- and communication practice” based project COMTAINER STATION 30. In cooperation with people living in the neighbourhood she organised exhibits, planting activities, and created an opportunity for an informal exchange of information and conversation. The container she set up and the playground served as studio, toolshed, garden and meeting place. Frauke Gerhards’ paintings condense these experiences in another medium. Alluding to the genre of icon painting or altar pieces, she paints the “Abteilungsleiterin” (head of department), -her alter ego- wearing blue workers overalls, replacing the madonna’s cape. Her pictures render her vision of a non-hierarchical work organisation. The “Abteilungsleiterin” gives birth to more and more little blue overalls, who in turn put on work-suits, thereby symbolically taking initiative and taking on part of the work to be done.
Which role artists and producers of culture have and will have in society is one, which continuously demands decisions. Nine Budde has confronted herself with this question in a special way. To a group of people in her immediate surroundings of Weimar she offered to produce videos on their favorite topics. The contents were sketched by buzzwords, and so videos with titles such as “Art and Soccer” and “My hot Deodorant” were produced, in which Budde, dressed in always the same flowery dress, humorously and obstinately presents her services. The video-clips produced seem to defy the expectations of the service-industry, but at the same time they leave behind the queasy feeling that this kind of service will be acceptable in the near future.
As artists are adopting methods of and approaches to production from other professional fields, the question as to what distinguishes artistic work from any other work arises with more and more prominence. Economic pressures, setting the pace for the individual, seem to render self-determined work even in the arts sector an illusion 31. An artist invited to contribute to an exhibition by giving a speech on his experiences in the project management of a large company is certainly crossing the repeatedly quoted lines between art and life. Armin Chodzinski graduated from art school in 1998, with a project named “Revision; The relationship between Art and Economy”, and the publishing of a small magazine on the same topic. Since 1997 he has been working for a large trade company. His graphic art poster of a series, bearing the words “Armin Chodzinski must join the management” heralded the decision, with which he left the position of an observer in order to join the inner circle, a decision similar (even though the ideological conditions of the sixties were vastly different from those of the nineties) to the decision of the students of May ‘68 to join the establishment. It is a step to reconcile reflection and practice. A still uncompleted experiment, in which Chodzinski consciously attempts to remain aware of the contradictions between actively taking on responsibilities in a corporation and the artistic reflection on the same activities requiring a constant re-evaluation of his position.
Collective and voluntary work as a connective element between the increasingly separate segments of public society is often seen as an acceptable way out of disintegration and a society bent on the pursuit of purely individual interests 32. Malte Willms and Jelka Plate have been working together since 1997, initially for the “Mission”, a project focussing on art and the homeless, initiated by Christoph Schlingensief, and subsequently in the realisation of inner city projects in Hamburg. These projects aimed at creating awareness for the marginalisation of economically weaker groups, their eviction from public urban spaces and the total dominance of economic interests in these areas. Armed with loudspeakers and garbed in uniforms reminiscent of the uniforms of private security personnel, they pretended to organise participation in the “City Consumption Control Society (CKKG)”. Each passer-by, who had not consumed (bought!) enough was conscripted to serve a “good shopper”. Willms and Plate take on the roles of mediators. Their acts vacillate somewhere between critique and mediation, the stimulation of communication and discussion. Decisive to them is the adequate operation 33 of social and societal processes, not under the pretext of economic exploitation, but in the tradition 34 of a committed artistic and political practice.
Since 1989, Christoph Schäfer has been working (until 1996 together with Cathy Skene) on topics such as urbanism, theme parks, fashion and daily life. In order to not only comment on these issues, but to provoke change, “Park Fiction” 35 was created. Together with resident neighbours he has developed this project since 1995, which has prevented the city’s administration from developing the lot situated on the banks of the Elbe, and instead, made the way for a public park in Hamburg’s poorest residential area. The public planning process for the park has repeatedly generated the question as to who owns the city? This model project is not restricted to a punctual upgrading of the situation, but questions the political decision-making and power structures, and the role of the artist as an autonomous subject. The central notion of work in the realisation of “Park Fiction” was the conception of a collective production of dreams, requiring public space as a playground for subjectivities, in a world in which work is disappearing: “The wishes will leave the appartments and will enter the streets 36. In his film “Revolution Non Stop” 37, Schäfer takes this topic one step further: His “game with the remnants of the surplus-production in the future ruins of Fordism” takes place in Hamburg’s inner city, which is currently following the trend towards the “image-city”, the tendency to create an image of perfection and to hide away social reality, i. e. to marginalize the misery being produced by surplus-production. Schäfer’s film, which was first presented this summer at the Hamburg Metropolis Cinema and which will be shown there non-stop every day until October, argues that surplus-production provides the objective conditions for a life liberated from the demands of work. Consequently, the protagonists in his movie lead happy lives as a marginalised segment of the public, and in the end, even the business tycoons see the writing on the wall: “Profit rate tends to fall-we give up” is the slogan for a final sale at Karstadt.
Since 1996, the informal collective convex tv. 38 has been working in Berlin, in many ways reminiscent of, but also very different from ZAPP. Their objective is to create media convergence of their own. The internetradio project, founded by-among others- journalists, radio play authors, internet activists, psychologists and architects, was the successful attempt to take advantage of the distribution potential of the radio, beyond strictly commercial limitations. Based on the fact that the internet provides the facilities “to just about anybody to run a radio-station”, the idea of a web-surface with texts and audio-streams, and a monthly on-air-broadcast by the university radio was realised. Generated by a group of friends, the programme deliberately focussed on the “outside-perception” own their own, specific interests in the areas of “digital media, pop-cultural phenomena, media politics, film and literature.” At the end of the year 1999 convex tv. ceased to produce, while the programs created so far can still be heard and seen in the net. A smaller collective of authors from within the larger convex tv. community has regrouped to participate in the Werkleitz Biennale under the name of werkleitz. com.
The closing-down of the greenhouses in Vockerode in 1991 is only one of the examples of the de-industrialisation of the former GDR 39. Since 1996, Wieland Krause has been involved in archiving photographs, documents and remnants of the site, together with Johanna Bartl and Olaf Wegewitz. The video produced in this context in an unpretentious way allows the viewer to register, the magnitude of the abandoned site from the point of view of an uninvolved observer circling the plant in a car. A plant “factory” producing plants industrially,- the greenhouses were heated by the waste heat of a near-by power plant and the plants were fed by a nutrient solution - the ruin symbolises the status quo of the new federal states and is a monument of a model of agriculture, which had totally departed from natural cycles and even human labor. One of the greenhouses has been given over to the archive-project and will be re-constructed at another site, as a greening sculpture, commented and accompanied by the archive container databank.
In her film „Candidates“, Malika Ziouech has zoomed in on one of the few competitors with work in the market of identities: In order to appear on television you need to be neither alive nor employed, just like the candidate in her nasty satirical take-off on popular tv-shows: A corpse produces soap bubbles in a talent show 40. „Alle für Arbeit“ (All for work) is the title of a swinging and, at the same time, oppressive polit-musical, telling the story of a young academic woman who attempts to find her own place in a fully synchronized society. Her talking gymnastics ball gives well-meant, if unconstructive advice on how to optimise her appearance, whereas a public servant at the employment office rudely berates her for failing. When she makes a desperate effort at getting a job by accepting to work as a living sculpture in a shop window, her neighbour, a reporter for the „work propaganda station“ ridicules her. The heroine kidnaps the reporter by threatening her with an electric drill and thereby unexpectedly becomes a media star.
Work as an identity-generating motive is turned upside-down with the requisitioning of the entire personality and appearance by the service industry. The young women, photographed by Stefan Panhans, are part of a well-planned presentation of several consumer goods displays. The interior design of the boutiques, galeries and fair booths, in which they work as sales women, guides the eye, allows approach and plays with distance. To shop becomes a flirt with the commodity, but also with the women presenting them. The appearance and assimilation of these women is an integral part and precondition to working in this world, in which individuality and small differences have created a major growth-sector, the marketing of life-style products. Panhans’ photos not only expose the mechanisms of such sales-presentations, but also allow glimpses of unguarded moments and everyday experiences of these young women within the presentational set-ups.
Originally „economy“ meant „the art of housekeeping“. Society consists of exactly these independantly operating economic units, which in meeting with others negotiate their interests. Nils Norman confronts the all-encompassing market with the utopia of small cooperatives united by common interests and activities, commited to their own values and ideals. He chose an abandoned building in Cologne-Nippes 41 as the basis for the idea of a joint use: A group of people gets together, minimally repairs the building, researches possible sustainable sources of income in agreement with their convictions and comes up with a bycicle courier service. Similar to a project developer, Norman built scale models and calculated the economic phases of such a plan. Norman conceptions drive home the visionary aspect of such projects. In the end it is the bycicle race courses, which the imagined team has conjured up and built for training which exemplifies the success of this idea.
The self-comprehension of a culture and its institutions in relation to the society, the organisation of work and the principles of production, possibly needs to be one based on action of and between individuals, not focussed on the production of visible merchandise. In 1995, Philippe Parreno sent out invitations to a party in an exhibition space in Dijon 42, on the eve of the actual opening. In the separate rooms he offered various settings as frames for parties,- ranging from the beach party to a club. The emphasis was not so much on the artist as a provider of services, but as the creator of improbable moments and unexpected encounters. On display were the interiors, and the traces and interventions left by the guests, as frozen momentums 43 of intense encounters. Parreno’s projects uncover the discrepancy between media presence and experienced reality. „The Factory of Clouds“ relates back to the experiences reported by Robert Linhart 44, a member of the French intellectual left-wing of May ‘68, who more than 30 years ago went to work in a Citroën factory in order to encounter social reality and to connect with the workers’ movement, and found individuals and relationships instead of collective identities. During a several-day-long workshop with students of the HfbK in Hamburg, members and the team of the Kunstverein, Parreno and the participants authored a text expanding on Linhart’s experiences and showing their potential today, which was then read by anchorwoman Dagmar Berghoff and recorded on video. The text presented the vision of a factory totally emptied of industrial labor, producing human relationships instead of cars. „Here we do not find assembly lines, no machines and products in the conventional sense of the word. The workers sit around tables and have fun. This factory is documented no where, it is not materially palpable. Still it produces something: The conversations lead to personal relationships, and possibly to friendships, they have direct consequences for the individual and transform his way of thinking and acting. Should you try to imagine seeing such a factory from far away, you would think it was producing clouds.“
„What if..“ was for several years the title and dominating motif of the artistic work of Liam Gillick. The starting point of his work is the speculative non-acceptance of some very basic ideas of western intellectual history. The notion of history as a sequence of events in a strictly linear understanding of time is rendered powerless in his work. Language as the carrier of this convention in thought, offers itself as a medium and laboratory for an oppositional approach. Gillick’s 1995 novel „Erasmus is late“ 45 joins fragments of societal analysis and stories stretching over a period of more than a century. Characters which had indirectly influenced history, but have rarely been presented as protagonists or „decision-makers“ meet in the course of the novel’s narrative: Masaru Ibuka, co-founder of Sony; Elsie McLuhan, the wife of Marshall McLuhan; Murry Wilson, the mother of Brian Wilson; Erasmus Darwin, the brother of Charles Darwin, as well as the latter’s companion, Harriet Martineaux, and Robert McNamara, US-Foreign Minister under Kennedy.
The „Big Conference Center“, 46 a later novel by Liam Gillick, assembles fragments of incidents and scenarios centering around a conference facility. Chapters with headings such as „conciliation“, „compromise“, „delay“ and „revision“ pick up on the abstractions with which language describes phenomena and proceedings of negotiation. The interiors of office buildings, hotel rooms and the realisations of urban planners’ designs are the backdrop and basis for future plans and speculations. Gillick’s renewed edition of the German translation of a utopian novel by Edward Bellamy, first published in 1887, for an exhibition in Leipzig, confronts a post-socialist society with visions from the past. The ideal society in the year 2000, as described in detail by Bellamy, cannot be found in the present, quite to the contrary: Bellamy’s description of the 19th Century as contradictory in its mechanisms and backwards in its ideals presents surprising similarities to our society today.
1 on the occasion of the exhibition „No Man’s land“, 1991, Villa Arson, Nice
2 „ Modern times began in the 17th century with the theoretical gloryfication of work, and it ended by turning all of society into a working society at the beginning of our century. Just like in a fairytale, the dream-come-true turns out to be a curse.“ Hannah Arendt: Vita Activa oder Vom tätigen Leben, Munich/Zurich 1999 (first German edition 1967), page 12
3 Antonio Negri, Maurizio Lazzarato, Paolo Virno: Umherschweifende Produzenten. Immaterielle Arbeit und Subversion. (Roaming producers. Immaterial work and subversion), Berlin 1998
4 „The changes set in motion undermine the basis of modern society as we know it. They force us to redefine the „social“ web as well as the relationships of individual and societal issues and to critically reconsider the nature and the process of socialisation. To re-situate the sites and the ways and means of the „production of society“, in: André Gorz: Arbeit zwischen Misere und Utopie (Work between Misery and Utopia). Frankfurt/Main, 2000, page 95
5 Holger Kube Ventura: Dorf Fiction- Art in an exotic space. The Exhibition Section of the 3rd Werkleitz Biennale 1998 in: Subfiction, catalogue Werkleitz/Tornitz, 1998, page 12
6 „The actual global unemployment rate is at 25 %, if you still care to use this expression“, page 39 in André Gorz, see above.
7 The anthology „Die Zukunft von Arbeit und Demokratie“ (The Future of Work and Democracy), edited by Ulrich Beck, Frankfurt/Main, 2000, presents a selection of essays focussing on our present situation in a work- and capital-society, and describes ways out of the dilemma. Center focus of the solutions is the idea of a „third way“, similar to Jeremy Rifkin’s in „The End of Work and its Future“, Frankfurt 1995 which centers around a radical expansion of the third, the volunteer sector and the model of paid citizens as fundamental in order to maintain a future of democracy and social justice. André Gorz goes even further in the conclusion to his analysis, by demanding a guaranteed income as the basis for a „multiactive“ society. pp. 120
8 Stephan Schmidt-Wulffen describes the basically altered attitude of the artist and his work towards the viewer, who is no longer expected to remain passive, but to take on an active role as a co-creator. Stephan Schmidt-Wulffen: Kunst ohne Publikum (Art without Audience), pages 185-195, in: Zeitgenössische Kunst und ihre Betrachter, Jahresring 43, Oktagon 1996
9 Helmut Saiger: Die Zukunft der Arbeit liegt nicht im Beruf. Neue Beschäftigungs- und Lebensmodelle (The Future of Work is not professional. New Models for Living and Working). Stuttgart, 1999
10 Suzanne Franks: Das Märchen von der Gleichheit. Frauen, Männer und die Zukunft der Arbeit (The Fairy Tale of Equality. Women, Men and the Future of Work). Stuttgart, 1999.
11 Hannah Arendt points out how the idea of production was overcome by the primacy of work: „ Instead of durability, dependability and reliability, the ideals of the Homo faber, the creator of worlds, we now have the Animal laborans, which while it dreams conjures up the land of plenty.“ page 150. „ The curse of affluence is (…) only to be felt as a tendency, and with it, the cures an overfed society procures to heal it.“ Page 155
12 Gorz emphasises the advantage of non-monetary exchanges in relation to the exchange of alternative technologies and knowledge: „ It has long ceased to be true that the tools produced and patented by corporations surpass the performance of the alternatively produced, computerised tools, developed for local trade and self-sufficiency.“ Page 155, see above
13 Helpful in understanding the meticulously produced connections between rational and sensory perception in Mik’s work is again a quote by Hannah Arendt: „Only the irresistible distrust against the world-mediating qualities of the human sensory apparatus – and this distrust is source of the entire philosophical development of Modern Times- can explain how we can so uniformly exemplify sensory experiences as feelings, which do nothing but to distract us from functioning normally, just like a pain or a stimulation, and then to draw from them the subjectivity of the „secondary“, or even the „primary“ sensory qualities. If all sensory experience were feeling, in which the body „feels“ itself, there would be no discussion about the reality of the world. We would have no perception whatsoever of the world around us.“ Page 134, s. a.
14 The reconsideration, also within industrial production, in an approach to a „creative“ work-model is again described by Gorz, using the example of „Ohnism“ or „Toyota systems“ employed by Toyota and General Motors, and, slightly altered, by Volvo in Uddevalla: „Kaizen“ means continuously re-designing and optimising the production process by the workers themselves.“ The paradigm of the hierarchical organisation is replaced by network structures, which coordinate in their junctions self-organisational collectives in a loose–link structure, none of which represent a center.“ Gorz, s. a. pages 45-46
15 Was zählt, ist nicht, die Gegensätze aufzulösen, sondern gleichzeitig einzunehmen (What counts is not to dissolve the contradicting positions, but to be able to take them all at the same time). Ingo Vetter/Annette Weisser. Catalogue Munich 1998
16 „So einfach ist das also - Interview zur Ökonomie des Immateriellen“ with Maurizio Lazzarato by Annette Weisser in „Die Beute, Neue Folge No. 2“ and „Was zählt, ist nicht, die Gegensätze aufzulösen, sondern gleichzeitig einzunehmen“, a follow-up revision of recent publications on the topic of immaterial work by Annette Weisser, in cooperation with Ingo Vetter, 1996
17 Gorz poses these questions especially in response to the hopes expressed by different parties: „Will this concept of the worker’s power open up new spaces? Does it possibly herald a new liberation in working and at the same time a liberation from working? Or does it carry the submission of workers to extremes, by forcing them to take over leadership, and to adopt the „Imperative of competition“, to put the survival of the company above everything else, even their own health and their lives?“ Gorz, s. a., page 47. „A step backward in comparism to Fordism is evident. Toyotism replaces modern social relationship by pre-modern ones.“ Page 55
19 Walter Benjamin: „Paris, the Capital of the XIX. Century“, in : Walter Benjamin: The Work of Passages, Frankfurt/Main, 1982.
20 In this book „ It is like it is. The story of a house. Frau Koch recalls“, an account of a conversation of Franka Hörnschemeyer with Renate Koch about the „Konsum“-building in Tornitz.
21 Günter Heismann: Überholen ohne Einzuholen. Neue Hochtechnologien zwischen Ostsee und Thüringer Wald (Passing without catching up. New high-technologies between the Baltic Sea and the Thuringia Forest), Berlin 2000
22 Andreas Berbaur: „Der Anzug als Karriere-Outfit“ in Work & Culture. Büro. Inszenierung von Arbeit, Linz 1998, p. 267
23 s. a. p. 271: „A gaping shirt-collar, or bare skin visible with legs crossed between trousers and socks; all this is tabooed and of bad taste in the world of suits. Even stronger, physical eroticism seems to be the biggest obstacle to credibility, power and competence.“
24 Richard Sennett describes the dissolution of a world of obligations and binding commitments, a world which also engendered the suit as a garment. Richard Sennett: Der flexible Mensch. Die Kultur des neuen Kapitalismus, Berlin 1998
25 „Pausenhof“, Intervention 1996, College „La Fontaine“ Antony, France
26 Arendt points out the connections between a work-divisional society and the dominant production- and consumption logic. In: Vita Activa, see above
26 Gerd Gerken/Michael J. Merks: Szenen statt Zielgruppen (Scenes instead of target groups). Vom Produkt zum Kult. Die Praxis der Interfusion. Dt. Fachverlag, 1996
27 Thoughts on the current situation of work and economy are to be found in an essay by Olaf Nicolai on the VW „ Glass Factory“, planned to be completed in 2000, in which the final assembly of luxury limousines in the very center of Dresden is planned to be staged as an additional stimulation to the „experience of buying“. Olaf Nicolai: „Produktion als Performance oder Die Arbeit im Diorama“, in Theater der Zeit, Sept/Okt.99
28 Nation und Emotion. Deutschland und Frankreich im Vergleich (Germany and France in Comparison), 19. und 20. Jahrhundert. Edited by Etienne Francois/ Hannes Siegrist/ Jacob Vogel, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1995
29 Comtainment 97/98, Das historische Schaufenster, Comtainer Goods Edition, Cologne 1998, a documentation of the activities of the year 97/98, edited by Frauke Gerhard and Achim Riechers
30 „Regarded as a distanced and autonomous practice, art runs the risk of becoming the aesthetic valve and moment of legitimation of a society under an increasing pressure. Intertwined with the dominant structures, art is confronted with the paradigm of acting as a complice.“ Andreas Spiegl, in X-sqared, exhibition catalogue Vienna seccession, 1997, page 6
31 The vision of a third way, voiced particularly in the Anglo-Saxon countries, in which non-profit work for the benefit of the public takes on a central role in society, sounds as plausible as it is possibly problematic. (Rifkin, Sennett, also Hans Ulrich Beck, s. a. )
32 „Only an individual, which defines itself as such, can recognise, understand and translate the efforts of emancipatory work and the efforts to give birth to oneself, done by another individual.“ Gorz, page 85, s. a.
33 Hannah Arendt stresses the action as opposed to production as the area of interpersonal and societal meeting. Action encompasses all forms of communication and of exchange, and represents the basic power in society. In: Vita Activa, s. a.
34 An exemplary model is to be found in the work of the art group Group Material, which has fundamentally shaped some approaches to participatory artistic practice, and has opened up new possibilities of political activism. See: Jan Angikos: „Group Material Timeline: Activism as a Work of Art.“ In: But is it Art? The Spirit of Art as Activism, edited by Nina Felshin, Bay Press 1994
35 Park Fiction, 100% Park für St. Pauli Süd. The project was financed in the context of „Weitergehen“, art in public spaces, Hamburg
36 Subtitle from Margit Czenki’s Film on the project: „Park Fiction -The wishes will leave the apartments and will enter the street“,
63 minutes/ 16mm, Germany1999
37 the film was produced as Christoph Schäfer’s contribution to the project „Aussendienst“, art in public spaces, Cultural Administration and Kunstverein in Hamburg 2000
39 G. Heismann draws an intense picture of the dismantling of industrial production sites. In the area of Bitterfeld alone, 30 000 jobs were lost in the chemical industry and the connected lignite working. Günter Heismann: Überholen ohne Einzuholen, see above.
40 Kandidaten, 1994, 16mm colour, 20 min.
41 The title of the work shown in 1996 at the Galerie Buchholz was „Clouth“ Gummiwerke, Xantenerstr., Tor 4, Nippes, Köln 1996
42 „Snow dancing“, le Consortium Dijon, 1995 (exhibition and book published)
43 „you got an impression of how two hours of a producing exhibition could measure up to many squaremeters of an inanimate museum space“, quoted from : „Correspondence Nicolas Bourriaud, Philippe Parreno“, Paletten, p. 36
44 Robert Linhart: Eingespannt. Erzählung aus dem Inneren des Motors. German, Verlag Volk und Welt, 1980 (French original: L’établi. Paris 1978)
45 Liam Gillick: Erasmus is late, London 1995
46 published in German-English as a cooperative project of the Kunstverein Ludwigsburg and the Orchard gallery 1997, in the context of a series of talks given at the Kunstverein Ludwigsburg. And: Edward Bellamy: Ein Rückblick aus dem Jahre 2000 auf 1887. Leipzig, 1999, published by Liam Gillick./