ON LABOR & AFFECT — EVENT SERIES & EXHIBITION
OCTOBER 29 — NOVEMBER 5, 2021
MEZANIN (PALATUL UNIVERSUL)
23-25 ION BREZOIANU ST., BUCHAREST
THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE NATIONAL CULTURAL FUND
BUCHAREST CITY COUNCIL THROUGH ARCUB
WITHIN THE BUCHAREST – OPEN CITY 2021 PROGRAMME
U.S. EMBASSY IN ROMANIA
Society has exhausted itself in its representation of the power of work. Labor and its mythical illusions permeate identity, sometimes replacing it completely. But it is only through moments that allow interruption, fragmentation and suspension, outside processes of production or completion, when creating a community and an open dialogue is possible.
If emotions function in the core structures of a financial world that operates more like a mood ring than a self-steering wheel (in the words of social theorist Brian Massumi), what happens within work practices that are social, technical or institutional? Underneath a seamless automated and efficient society, an infrastructure of invisible and affective labor resurfaces more than ever before. Is affect weighed in its calculations or is rationality an economic fiction?
On Labor & Affect comprises a series of events and an exhibition that interrogates work practice and its affective subtones, by approaching different professions and working environments. A panel of artists and speakers are invited to participate in a play of articulations, using video, sound, seminars and open discussions.
Between October 29 and November 5, several evenings will focus on different works in the space, through open talks between the artists, other specialists and the public. We intend to create a discussion ground addressing the lesser-seen implications of labor, through forms of listening and speaking practices, forging an open space for the audience to also participate.
Friday, October 29
6 — 9pm, exhibition
With an intervention by Ioana Gheorghiu in conjunction with her video work This house would slow down
Saturday, October 30
3 — 7pm, exhibition
7 — 9pm, Ethics of New Technology — screening Pickers and We Always Aim Higher & open talk with Bob Bicknell-Knight, Michael Bucuzzo and Anda Zahiu (member of the Research Center in Applied Ethics)
Sunday, October 31
3 — 7pm, exhibition
Monday, November 1
1 — 5pm, exhibition
5 — 7pm, Labor, Love, Listening — Brandon LaBelle seminar*
Tuesday, November 2
3 — 7pm, exhibition
7 — 9pm, Invisible Labor — screening Translator present perfect & open talk with Alle Dicu and Andrei Anastasescu (translator, film protagonist)
Wednesday, November 3
1 — 5pm, exhibition
5 — 7pm, Labor, Love, Listening — Brandon LaBelle seminar*
Thursday, November 4
3 — 7pm, exhibition
7 — 9pm, Labor, Love, Listening — open talk with Brandon LaBelle and Mara Mărăcinescu (sound engineer, podcast producer)
Friday, November 5
3 — 7pm, exhibition
7 — 9pm, Italy Syndrome — open talk with Mel Ghidini and Diana Meseșan (journalist) in conjunction with the work Vita Serena
*In order to attend the seminar, please register via email at firstname.lastname@example.org until Sunday, October 31. You can attend either one or both sessions, depending on your preference.
Access is allowed EXCLUSIVELY on the basis of a Covid vaccination certificate and protective mask. All legal measures for prevention and health safety regulations currently enforced will be respected. Venue capacity will be limited. The talks will take place in English.
Pickers is a new 24-minute CGI film concerning Amazon Fulfilment Centres, abusive workspaces and the 24/7 non-stop processes of twenty-first-century capitalism.
The work is an exploration of what happens within Amazon warehouses, both now and in the future, where Amazon workers load trolleys full of items that are packed onto trucks for next day delivery. The work, informed by conversations with current Amazon employees, examines how Amazon’s human workers are treated within these warehouse environments, and imagines how the company will grow and change in the future as artificially intelligent machines become increasingly popular, slowly replacing their human workforce.
The film represents a 24-hour day/night cycle and revolves around a real-life Amazon warehouse in London, UK, that has been 3D modelled and animated. During the film delivery trucks are loaded, street lamps are switched on and workers come and go. These elements are accompanied by a speculative script, read by different voice actors, that considers the automation of work and the reduction of workers’ rights in our hyper-capitalist world.
The animation utilises clay rendering, a method used by animators to quickly render scenes before adding textures to objects, enabling them to easily analyse the model and lighting. Clay rendering is rarely used and presented as the finished product, reflecting how Amazon as a company is a work in progress, and should not be permitted to operate in its current condition.
We Always Aim Higher
We believe in the quality of our work, and the unmatched productivity of our people. Now that you’re onboard with us, we’re here to support you, teach you and inspire you. But in order to achieve this, we must first see you, hear you and get to know you. And to truly ensure that we all deliver as best we can, we’re ready to modulate you. Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, we’re going to exceed expectations and go farther, together. We’re more than a team. We’re greater than a family. Every day we improve, correct, optimize. We Always Aim Higher.
Translator present perfect
Translator present perfect (2021) is the first documentary directed by Alle Dicu. Moments of Andrei Anastasescu’s life as a literary translator, in his flat in Bucharest, are condensed in the 60 minutes of the picture. We meet a person for whom the conditions of work did not change much with the pandemic lockdown. We see him browse through dictionaries, repeating phrases and words in an almost-ritualic way until they loose their meaning, discussing with friends and trying to situate himself in space and time.
This house would slow down
Conceived as to deliver clear and thoroughly documented perspectives on various strata of local politics, debate competitions imply constant research and oratorical competence and, formally, they have a sports feel due to the accelerated pace of the timed discourse.
The standard format (government versus opposition) of official competitions is morphing here into a one-speaker format. An invested, rather solemn debater is following the maneuvering of a range of objects, carefully investigating thin oval units, flexible entities, round(able) figures bearing signs of transitions. He postulates possible motions and, at times, engages in debating them.
Channeling the structure and paraphernalia of debate competitions, a slow deciphering showcases a practice of assigning meaning, reflecting on the dynamic between image and the production of discourse. Testing degrees of grounding abstract gestures into folds of social and political reality. Lines quietly contain wide-ranging principles.
Vita Serena is an agency responsible for training and developing prosthetic assistants whose role is to diffuse personal stories. The agency collects and researches personal data while providing a space to access valuable private information within a set of rules and regulations. The viewer is welcomed to activate the space by following close instructions and having direct access to the stories collected. The result is a scripted and enacted choreography of voices and bodies, forming an ever-changing machinery where questions related to migration, gendered labor and displacement are explored.
Labor, Love, Listening
How might we think the relation between labor and love? If love drives us towards laboring, in terms of opening paths for working passionately, caring for others, drifting or undertaking inspired acts, how are disappointment, exhaustion, as well as fulfillment experienced? If the art field is often defined by “labors of love”, how does the economy support or interrupt such labors? Is love a potential framework for challenging capitalistic power, to reorient labor by way of cooperation, festivity, the pursuit of hobbies, or even loafing around? Can love become a currency that leads away from exchange value and towards relational value? If in moving our labors in the direction of love, do understandings of labor change – does labor shift towards an idea of craft or art, if we consider a broader understanding of an “art of living” in which work, care, relationships, and doing are brought together?
The activities undertaken as part of On Labor & Affect focus on labor and love, and will be developed through readings into specific literatures, on-site fieldwork, and through presenting public seminars where speaking and listening to each other will form the basis for enacting labor / love. Listening will be posed as a form of affective labor that may critically and creatively complicate the attention economy, forming the basis for staying with each other, a being-with that may exceed or exit instrumentality. This will include reflecting together on listening as a form of agency that can hold a time and space for radical civility.
ANDREI ANASTASESCU was born in Râmnicu-Vâlcea (Romania) in 1981. He studied German and Dutch philology as well as literary translation at the University of Bucharest and worked, among other things, as a copy editor in a publishing house. Today he lives in Bucharest as a freelance translator of German-language literature. He has translated works by Hito Steyerl, Walter Benjamin, Christian Kracht, Niklas Luhmann, Peter Sloterdijk, Jenny Erpenbeck, Ulrich Plenzdorf, and others. In 2014, he received the Looren Translation Fellowship, in 2016–2017 the Landis & Gyr Foundation Fellowship, and in 2019 the Schritte Fellowship of the S. Fischer Foundation. In 2021 he was Translator-in-Residence at Q21 (Vienna).
BOB BICKNELL-KNIGHT is a UK based artist, curator and writer whose practice responds to surveillance capitalism and internet hyper consumerism. Founder of the online platform isthisit? he programmes digital and physical exhibitions addressing digital culture. Recent projects address drone technologies, tech billionaires and labour conditions.
Solo and duo exhibitions include: Eat The Rich, Galerie Sono, Paris (2021); Digging History, INDUSTRA, Brno, Czech Republic (2021); Bit Rot, Broadway Gallery, Letchworth (2020); State of Affairs, Salon 75, Copenhagen (2019); The Big Four, Harlesden High Street, London (2019); and CACOTOPIA 02, Annka Kultys Gallery, London (2018).
Through isthisit? he has curated exhibitions for Annka Kultys Gallery, arebyte Gallery, Daata Editions and State of the Art Berlin, amongst others. Bicknell-Knight has spoken on panel discussions and given artist talks at Contemporary Calgary, Canada (2020); Tate Modern, London (2019); University of Cambridge, Cambridge (2019); Camberwell College of Arts, London (2019); and Goldsmiths, University of London, London (2018).
MICHAEL BUCUZZO is a US-born filmmaker whose work investigates collective memory and experience through its fusion with the physical and digital spaces we inhabit. Employing various tools of cinematic conventions, he transforms contemporary habitats into a new living world. He works professionally in sound post-production for film and television, with credits including Ondi Timoner’s Mapplethorpe and Daniel Goldhaber’s Netflix thriller Cam. Additionally, he was an editor on Laurie Anderson’s Heart of a Dog and Alexandria Bombach’s On Her Shoulders, which received the 2018 Sundance U.S. Documentary Directing Award. He is currently a researcher at the Netherlands Film Academy in Amsterdam.
ALLE DICU, born in Alba Iulia, graduated from the National University of Arts Bucharest in 2017 and the Center of Excellence in Image Studies in 2021, where she developed a thesis titled “Visions of surface: marble as a sensible surface and its visual perception”. In 2018, she facilitated discussion circles that led to the publication of two collective essays: “Ring de dans, sală de așteptare” (Bucharest) and “Dancefloor laboratory“ (Bruxelles).
In time, photography and visual art brought her closer to video and film directing. Her works often address the processes that perception undergoes in order to adapt to concrete forms, be it sound, language or image. In 2019 she produces “MIXAGE”, a short film that follows the stream of conversation between a sound engineer and a young director at the mixing table. “Present perfect translator” (2021) is her first documentary.
IOANA GHEORGHIU crosses the temporal modalities of performance using text and instruments from visual arts in order to operate within the interstices between language, sound and body. She works with drawings, video and actions in order to conceptually approach governing principles from urbanism, music, sports. She poetically-concretely solves unfair cases for animals or birds. She uses formats such as debates (performative framework inspired by academic debate competitions) or musical scores. Sonically, she composes sequences with an affinity for radio theatre, sound poetry.
She has collaborated with long-term local performative research platforms such as Imagine Human (2019) and Black Hyperbox (2016), and took part in intensive international performance seminars such as “Abandoned Practices” (Prague), danceWEB Vienna and others. She was part of exhibitions and presented solo and group performances at venues such as Rosas Studios Brussels, National Dance Center Bucharest, tranzit Bucharest, Anca Poteraşu Gallery, WASP, Lateral Art Space and Pilot – Fabrica de Pensule Cluj, Centrul Cultural Chorbadjisko, Laboratorul de Imunologie Bucureşti, Atelier 35, Spaţiul Platforma (MNAC), Alfred ve dvore Theatre Prague, CIAC Pont-Aven.
MEL GHIDINI holds a BA (Hons) in English Literature from Goldsmiths University and has followed an MA course in transnational creative writing at Stockholm University, as well as a variety of workshops and courses which they accessed independently, in and out from institutions. Their work has been concerned with the complex elements surrounding language experience such as the links between written and spoken and the playful and hidden qualities of narratives and translation. They were co-founder of the London based art collective Run and the Milan based collective MELMA. In the past few years, they have been collaborating as a performer for a few artists and have developed multiple projects encompassing voice potentiality and its manipulation.
BRANDON LABELLE is an artist, writer and theorist living in Berlin. His work focuses on questions of agency, community, pirate culture, and poetics, which results in a range of collaborative andpara-institutional initiatives, including: The Listening Biennial and Academy (2021-), Communities in Movement (2019-), The Living School (with South London Gallery, 2014-16), Oficina de Autonomia (2017), The Imaginary Republic (2014-19), Dirty Ear Forum (2013-), Surface Tension (2003-2008), and Beyond Music Sound Festival (1998-2002). In 1995 he founded Errant Bodies Press, an independent publishing project supporting work in sound art and studies, performance and poetics, artistic research and contemporary political thought. His publications include: The Other Citizen (2020), Sonic Agency (2018), Lexicon of the Mouth (2014), Acoustic Territories (2010, 2019), and Background Noise (2006, 2015). His latest book, Acoustic Justice (2021), argues for an acoustic model by which to engage questions of social equality.
MARA MĂRĂCINESCU is a sound engineer and podcast producer. She started working with sound in 2009 when she was archiving Bucharest’s soundscape and now she produces narrative non-fiction podcasts that blend anthropology with sound arts. She believes sound is powerful enough to change mentalities and generate empathy.
DIANA MESEȘAN works as reporter at Libertatea. She also worked for Scena9 and Romania Insider. Other collaborations included Balkan Insight, Politico or Decât o Revistă. Her stories focus on women’s reproductive rights, migration, labour or marginalized communities.
ANDA ZAHIU is a PhD student (Faculty of Philosophy, University of Bucharest) and a member of the Research Center in Applied Ethics, with a background in political philosophy and applied ethics. Her research interests include primarily issues of justice related to income and opportunity distribution, the future of work and the ethics of new and emerging technologies. Her research is currently focusing on redefining meaningful work in the era of automation.