June 20, 2012 § Leave a comment
Published in 1930, Die Angestellten: Aus den neuesten Deutschland/ The Salaried Masses: Duty and Distraction in Weimar Germany by the writer and theorist, Siegfried Kracauer, was critically acclaimed. His friend and fellow author, Walter Benjamin, wrote, ‘ the entire book is an attempt to grapple with a piece of everyday reality, constructed here and experienced now. Reality is pressed so closely that it is compelled to declare its colors and name names’. Kracauer sought to address the new class of salaried employees of the Weimar Republic:
Spiritually homeless, divorced from all custom and tradition, these white-collar workers sought refuge in entertainment—or the “distraction industries,” as Kracauer put it—but, only three years later, were to flee into the arms of Adolf Hitler. Eschewing the instruments of traditional sociological scholarship, but without collapsing into mere journalistic reportage, Kracauer explores the contradictions of this caste. Drawing on conversations, newspapers, adverts and personal correspondence, he charts the bland horror of the everyday. In the process he succeeds in writing not just a prescient account of the declining days of the Weimar Republic, but also a path-breaking exercise in the sociology of culture which has sharp relevance for today.
Informed by sociology and discourse of the cinema, the publication was innovative both methodologically, for what could be described as its anticipated ‘ethnographicness’ and the resulting representational strategies of the ‘montage principle’. Kracauer employed a hybrid-like approach including ‘quotation, conversation, report, narrative, scene, image’ and as Inka Muelder-Bach, in her introduction to the English edition, observes:
His investigation…refrains from formulating its insight in a conceptual language removed form its material. Instead, Kracauer seeks to construct in that material. In other words, knowledge of the material’s significance becomes the principle of its textual representation, so that the representation itself articulates the theory.
The significance of its representational structure as means to articulate the everyday of ‘salaried employees’ material living conditions and that of the ideologies superimposed on this reality’ make it a important publication of continuing critical resonance.
January 9, 2012 § 10 Comments
In the continuing evolutionary aftermath of the global economic collapse of 2008/2009 and absence of sustained practice-led research engagement with the central locus of this catastrophic event, the ethnographically informed, multi-sited, transnational project, THE MARKET (2010-), builds upon the cycle of long-term research projects, beginning in the late 1990s, by practice-led researcher and educator, Mark Curran, and focuses on the functioning and condition of the global markets and the central role of financial capital.
The cycle of multi-media research projects, addressing the predatory context resulting from migrations and flows of global capital began with SOUTHERN CROSS (1999-2001)(Gallery of Photography/Cornerhouse 2002) which surveyed the spaces of development and finance of the so-called ‘Celtic Tiger’ Irish Republic. This was followed by The Breathing Factory (2003-2006)(Edition Braus/Belfast Exposed/Gallery of Photography 2006) and subject of his practice-led PhD, sited in a multinational complex in Leixlip in the East of Ireland, the project addressed the role and representation of labour, global labour practices and fragile nature of globalised industrial space. Ausschnitte aus EDEN/Extracts from EDEN (2003-2009)(Arts Council of Ireland, 2011) focused upon a declining industrial and coalmining region in the former East Germany, an area which prophetically evidenced the massive impact regarding the unevenness of development inherent through the functioning of neoliberal globalisation. All projects are intended to demonstrate a continuing and sustained engagement addressing the predatory impact of global capital.
Critically, the ongoing project, THE MARKET, which began in 2010, seeks to access those sites, which all of the other project work to date has also been decisively defined, spaces where literally and metaphorically, futures are speculated upon – the global markets – and to explore, survey and excavate focusing upon their operating functioning and how this is reflected in for example, language, architectural understandings and centrally, the individuals who inhabit, dwell and labour within these global financial spheres. Conceptually pivotal and mindful of technological evolution with specific reference to the role and functioning of algorithms, has been a desire to both make visible an understanding of such sites and to explore the interconnectedness of such markets. Therefore, multi-sited access has been sought to survey various global locations, including sites in Dublin, London, Frankfurt, Addis Ababa and Mumbai. Extended stays and re-visits have been undertaken in each location to facilitate further research regarding the site, address access, establish contacts and develop relationships with individuals as key collaborators and informants of the project.
As demonstrated in Curran’s previous projects, the cross-disciplinary interventions have included an ethnographic understanding in the collaborative and multi-vocal application of media in the form of photography, audio-digital video, soundscape and the collation of verbal testimony. The intention for THE MARKET has been to afford process-led undertakings over the course of its construction, extending to site-specific interventions, web presence and forums around the project installations incorporating interested parties thereby facilitating the opening up of discursive spaces around the central thematic.
In the financial markets, there is a natural predatory instinct that is hard to control (former trader and author, Micheal Lewis, BBC World Service, 9 May 2010)
The video shows a taped up plastic curtain inside the factory, one that seems to be installed for blocking the artist from viewing production equipment and process. Although we cannot see, there seems to be a working (breathing) machine inside the curtain as it, almost unnoticeably, inflates and deflates repetitiously. In fact, the video seems to summate what the audience experiences in the exhibition. The camera made its way inside the factory, but it cannot tell us what the employees actually do or what they produce. We are only allowed to hear the breathe of the factory. This is analogous to today’s globalised economy and financial markets. For many of us, it is almost unfathomable to understand how they operate. We are left outside of a curtain, inside of which a giant machine breathes intermittently. (from Spectators of the Same Story: Economy, Technology, Photography, Jung Joon Lee, Review of The Breathing Factory: A Project by Mark Curran, DePaul Art Museum (DPAM), Chicago January-March 2010, CAMERAta, Seoul, Korea, May 2010)
Keywords Global Capital, Ethnography, Photography, Speculation, Transnational, Vulnerable, Fieldwork, Precarity, Testimony, Cross-disciplinary, Labour, Witness, Reflexive, Installation, Montage, Multivocality, Access, Technology, Algorithms, Visual Art, Futures