Visited a screening of Mediums (2017) by James N. Kienitz Wilkins & Kodak (2018) by Andrew Norman Wilson at Union Docs – Center for Documentary Art yesterday. Wilson was supposed to give a talk after the screening but he cancelled. After the films we heard Wilkins (who also co-authored Kodak) interviewed by Aily Nash.
Kodak was an media archeological analysis of film (both as a material and technology). The movie centered on Kodak as a company, looking at the ideological premises which fueled its development. The story is tied to Wilson, whos father worked for the company. Some of the footage was from their family archive. The film made a critical examination of Kodak’s key innovations (how cow brain gelatin was introduced as an emulsion and how processes were streamlined for efficiency) and an analysis on the development of the culture of photography. Photo-culture was presented as a cult of newness, which is trying to combat death, by collecting (and worshiping) fragments of time that technocratic superstructures enable mortals (consumers) to freeze (“You Press the Button, We Do the Rest” – Kodak slogan). The story was narrated by a man who suffered from some kind of amnesia (mad-cow disease?) and tried desperately to piece together the story of inventor George Eastman (sometimes believing himself to be partially Eastman). The movie ended up in a portrayal of virtual reality, which was presented as a hell were all of the residues of peoples (captured in frozen moments), were re-animated and doomed to live in the past.
Mediums was a faux-sitcom located at a courthouse staircase. The actors were faking to be people who were called for jury duty. The people were trying to make sense of each others and their roles as possible jurors trough intentionally clumsy dialogue. It was a classic Brechtian educational theater as a movie experience. Occasionally the actors started mind numbing monologues, which provided the audience with very specific information of very specific matters (Such as: Franchising legislation, model-faults of specific cars, organization of NYC health insurance organizations, copyright legislation, actors unions missions etc.). The monologues felt very lighthearted, but I imagine people dealing with the specific issues learned a lot. The discussions after the movie didn’t engage with the movies cynical take on art as a vessel of social change (the director explained that the monologues were only meant to highlight the actors as vessels for the text the director had written). People were more interested in contemplating the relations which the actors had had with the obscure dialogue.
Jussi Koitela send me two texts to ponder. “Self branding anarchist…” (In Finnish) looks at how self-employed political activists and creatives fit to the new-work ethos. The text attempts to update the critique of new-work. But other then looking at how social media serves the demands of new-work, the text fails in providing new insight on the matter. I think Tero Nauha’s old article “Pickpocketer or Politician” (In Finnish) is still more successful in building awareness. A recent text by Janne Saarakkala also covers issues well (In Finnish).
The “Self branding anarchist..” looks at the case of self proclaimed “anarchist on watch” Suvi Auvinen and analyses her status as a new-worker, primarily through her presence in social media. She is an outspoken anarchist and has used media to create awareness for projects she’s been involved with. Through this exposure she has gained nationwide recognition as an political intellectual, who can be consulted on any issue. The text argues that she is actually a tool for ideologies advocating self-employment and that she has made her political efforts vain by popularising them. The argument is that anarchistic practices cannot remain autonomous in corporate controlled social medias.
That argument is as silly as claiming that critical thinking could not manifest as text.
The critique is unfair to Auvinen and fails to see her as a precariat object conforming to the pressures of new-work conditions. She is an antagonist whose struggle for autonomy we are witnessing and learning from. I see her as an accelerationist and her relation to mainstream media as an effort to implode its exploitative nature. She already has broader audience than the old leftist People’s News magazine which published the critique.
I’m not her fan. I think her presence in social medias was irritating. She was fast to react to news but her responses were fuelled by feel-good-hype and her update pace was breathtaking. I do feel that her efforts in making anarchism know do more good than harm. I got to know her 2011 when I was visiting the Jokikatu squat (More on Jokikatu in the waybackmachine archive in Finnish) when there were plans to make Turku the “Subculture Capital of Europe 2011”.
The other text Koitela send me was “The Artist-in-Consultance: Welcome to the New Management“. The article by Elvia Wilk recaps how different artist-in-residency programs for corporations have been organized through the years. The text gives a short introduction to organisations like the late Artist Placement Group and tries to understand why big companies (like FB or Google) are keen in inviting artists to work with them. The reasoning is that through the artist’s body and by witnessing her/his struggle, the workers of the corporations get to experience freedom and can align themselves with creative culture (I have personal experience of this as a worker of the Kone Corporation approached me after I got a grant from the Kone Foundation. We exchanged some messages and it was fun).
Andrew Norman Wilson tells a completely different story about artistic practice in the corporate sphere.
Wilk text presents artists as particularly fitting workers to serve big businesses desire for innovation and their aim to revolutionize life through their designs. Wilks argues that artist&corporation collaborations a fact of life as artist cannot escape monetary economics. Instead of wasting energy to fight for the autonomy in arts, the text tries to set a new angle for corporate collaborations. The audience (and judge) of artistic practices that develop in partnerships with corporations, should be the ecological well being of the planet. The text also sets a tactical guideline for these collaborations: “The goal of the artist-in-consultance should not be to force the interests of business, art, and the planet to overlap, but to preserve their misalignment at all costs.”.
Edit: Made a song about my-new-work.