Workers leaving the factory

Workers leaving the factory 

“it is quite curious that the first films ever made by Louis Lumiere show workers leaving the factory. At the beginning of cinema, workers leaving the industrial workplace. The invention of cinema thus symbolically marks the start of the exodus of workers from the industrial modes of production. But even if they leave the factory building, it doesn’t mean that they have left labour behind. Rather, they take it along with them and disperse it into every sector of life. 

A brilliant installation by Harun Farocki makes clear where the workers leaving the factory are headed. Farocki collected and installed different cinematic versions of Workers Leaving The Factory, from the original silent version(s) by Lumiere to contemporary surveillance footage. Workers are streaming out of factories on several monitors simultaneously: from different eras and in different cinematic styles. But where are these workers streaming to? Into the art space, where the work is installed.” 

The above paragraph(s) are by Hito Steyerl and I wanted to specifically explore certain aspects of cinema/moving image within a gallery space. Although the initial assignment was to talk about the description of work on the wall of the gallery in relation to the actual piece of work, I wanted to talk about something that was a lot more fascinating in regards to video art.  

I stand and watch a film in a gallery space without any knowledge of the length of the film or what the film consists of, and I watch people stand and be semi-interested in and leave after 1 minute, I find myself almost being quite smug about how they’ve left and I’m still here, “immersed” in this imagery yet I realize that I’m not even paying attention to what’s going on, and it becomes a competition in my head as to how long I can stand In front of this screen until the film ends when, where I started. 

While I sit and stare into nothingness, paying more attention to the attendance of other viewers rather than the actual film itself, in the back of my mind, I refer back to this paragraph(s) from Hito Steyerl and the idea of an art gallery in relation to a factory.  

“A silent crowd, immersed and atomized, struggling between passivity and overstimulation.” 

However, what sort of factory do I see this gallery being? Or a factory at all? One with a lack of interest? And what does this say about the current state of film works in galleries? 

There was recently a discussion on the state of film works in the art gallery and how, it’s impossible to view films in the gallery environment due to the length of the film, or whether this environment is right for film works to be displayed?  

Places like this year’s Turner Prize (2018) which is predominantly (if not entirely) film work, raises the question of, could this be better placed somewhere else? I ask this particular question because someone mentioned that it could be distributed to places where it could be used more appropriately such as public sectors where, in an ideal world, would be free and the problematic issue of the art world and its elitism (which is a completely different issue). 

The idea of taking these films out of the gallery space (whether paid or not) and distributing them amongst other spaces and essentially using the internet as a form of personalised art gallery, and giving them easier access would then create nothing but another video added to an archive of cat videos and the strange action of immersing oneself in a binge of videos of people eating as much food as they can in 10 minutes. Feeling nothing but the disgust that the filmmaker feels. 

“The poor image had been uploaded, downloaded, shared, reformatted, and reedited. It transforms quality into accessibility, exhibition value into cult value, films into clips, contemplation into distraction.” 

Now what kind of factory does this create you ask? It creates a factory in the 1980’s, Margaret Thatcher is running the country and everyone’s walked out of the factories and the mines. Leaving nothing but dead space.