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In Front of the Factory

Cinematic Spaces of Labour

May 26-27, 2016

“Most narrative films take place in that part of life where work has been left behind.” Harun Farocki’s condemnation of cinema’s unwillingness to represent labour finds echoes in present-day political discussions about the struggles and persistent invisibility of labour in public space. Undocumented labour, the weakening of union organizing, and the decoupling of work from physical space in the era of the Internet, are phenomena that have irreversibly altered everyday life.

At the same time, a new vocabulary capturing the expansions of labour – affective labour, care work, women’s work, immaterial and precarious labour – has made it possible to deepen our understanding of what ought to be considered as labour and where this labour happens. In the same vein, a growing number of filmmakers are showing a commitment to render the spaces where work takes place today visible again. Despite arguments to the contrary, film and the moving image have always been concerned with the processes of labour, including the work of cinema itself. If film theorists such as Jean Louis Comolli chastised cinema’s distancing approach to spaces of labour, it could be argued that they had in mind a limited notion of the workspace. In other words, whilst the space in front of the factory has enjoyed relatively little screen time in film’s history, spaces of labour hold an enduring relationship with the medium.

This conference will tackle the historically shifting relationship between cinema and the representation of labour spaces and will reflect on the renewed attention to the workspace in today’s art cinema and documentary production.

Programme (PDF)

26 May 2016

10:30 Morning coffee

11.00 Introduction

11:15 – 13:15 Panel I: Geographies of Everyday Labour

Karl Schoonover
(University of Warwick)
Neorealism's Casualisation of Labour in Time

Ewa Mazierska (University of Central Lancashire)
Cleaners in Contemporary Cinema

Elena Pollacchi (Stockholm University)
Wang Bing’s Shared Spaces of Labour: A Counter-narrative of the China Dream

13:15 – 15:00 Lunch break

15:00 – 17:00 Panel II: Cinematic Labour Histories

Britta Lange (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
Work in the Field – Fieldwork. Early Cinematic Representations of Handicraft and Farming

Mona Damluji (Stanford University)
Oil Infrastructure and the Sight/Site of Labour

Saima Akhtar (Forum Transregionale Studien/ICI Berlin)
Labour and the Mass-Production of Fordist Commercial Images

17:00 – 18:00 Coffee break

18.30 – 21.15 Evening Screening and Q&A at ACUD Kino

Andreas Bunte (Academy of Fine Art-Oslo)
Two Films about Pressure (2013)
Daniel Eisenberg (School of the Art Institute of Chicago)
The Unstable Object II, excerpts, (in progress, 2016) 
Alex Gerbaulet (Berlin)
Schicht (2015)
Mantas Kvedaravicius (Vilnius University)
Mariupolis (2016)

27 May 2016

14:00 Welcome coffee

14:30 – 16:30 Panel III: Film and Making Labour

Mantas Kvedaravicius (Vilnius University)
Cut Outs, or Belaboring the Negative: Note on a Film in the Precarious Zone

Daniel Eisenberg
(School of the Art Institute of Chicago)
Enacting Labor – A Quandary for makers...

Andreas Bunte (Academy of Fine Art – Oslo)
Safe Disassembly

16:30 – 18:30 Reception

19:00 – 22:00 Evening Screening and Closing Conversation at ACUD Kino

Pedro Costa (Portugal)
Horse Money (2014, 105 min)

The screenings will take place at the cinema ACUD, Veteranenstrasse 21, 10119 Berlin.

Time: 26-27 May 2016
Venues: ICI Berlin and ACUD Kino
In English
The Conference and the Screenings are free of charge.

Organised by Saima Akhtar, Rosa Barotsi, Clio Nicastro

This event is a cooperation between ICI Berlin, Forum Transregionale Studien, Irmgard Coninx Stiftung, ACUD Kino, and re:work.



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