Kunsthalle Wien‘s contribution to the Vienna Biennale 2017 Work it, feel it! revolves around notions of work and body, now and in the future. Instead of uncritically reproducing a discourse around work that focuses on innovation and optimization as is often the case, the artists featured in Work it, feel it! take a critical approach towards this topic, one that is informed by examinations of historic and current disciplinary mechanisms shaping society.
The disciplining of the human body, the demands placed on it and its possibilities to act are seen against the backdrop of the capitalist organization and definition of work as well as increasing automation. Work is an activity central to human beings. As such, it clearly reveals how societies of control operate.
Today, work is about more than just securing one’s economic livelihood: it seems to be the only way to attain social recognition; while its primacy in life controlling the direction and pace of daily life remains widely unquestioned. As work has become more flexible and more precarious, workers are forced to conceive themselves as a company and to market themselves as their own product.
Competence alone is not enough: the total mind-body package has to be just right and ready to be activated during the working process. As such, control mechanisms no longer serve only to train and shape the body as a perfect tool for production and consumption. The body itself becomes the target of work.
To upgrade the self in increasingly competitive contexts, technologies can be of help—moving closer and closer to the body or even entering it. Technology accesses all of our activities, merges with work and life, private feelings, wishes and thoughts, exploits them and makes them productive.
The slogan Work it, feel it! does not only represent an ironic watchword commenting the unquestioned and willing submission to modern work requirements. It is also intended to remind us of (partly unconscious) moments of bodily resistance: Affects or symptoms such as depression, stress, nervousness, and illness are usually understood and treated as common side effects, but they can also be interpreted as a source of physical resistance.
And there are some human needs that cannot be co-opted: Sleep and love resist the transformation of bodies into total productivity. From today’s perspective and with a view towards the future, the artists of the exhibition – Apparatus 22, Hannah Black, Danilo Correale, Juliette Goiffon / Charles Beauté, Louise Hervé / Chloé Maillet, Shawn Maximo, Sidsel Meineche Hansen, Toni Schmale, Romana Schmalisch / Robert Schlicht, Visible Solutions – analyze and speculate on questions concerning the subjugation of the body as well as strategies of escape and resistance. The artworks on display serve as a starting point for an extensive side program that offers an in-depth examination of the themes addressed in the exhibition.
Curator: Anne Faucheret
Associate curator: Eva Meran