Monday, December 3, 2012

Protect Your Heart at Work

Protect Your Heart at Work was first presented as a performance of the Bureau of Melodramatic Research & the Glass Lady on the 4th and 6th of November 2012, 4 pm at Technical Museum, Palace of Culture and Science, Warsaw thanks to Anna Ptak, who affectionately produced both the performance and the subsequent film.

In the postindustrial economy the commodities are intangible: a feeling of well-being, the personal satisfaction, a sense of uniqueness and individuality, connectedness and protection. We produce emotions, trade in knowledge, invest on the market of ideas, speculate on compassion and monopolize happiness. Buy for a smile, sell for a laught. Affectivity, knowledge, communication, social skills, kinship, creativity, human contact, proximity, forms of life are at the heart of the mechanisms of production and valorization today.

Under the present conditions, there is a high need to update the protection rules at the workplace. Since the workplace is everywhere and we embody the work, these rules become more and more important. What are the ergonomics of contemporary emotional work? How to avoid the repetitive strain injuries caused by recurrent smiling, compassionate inflections of the voice, endless nodding? We need new protection today because we no longer have a job, we are the job.

The Glass Lady was presented in the Warsaw Technical Museum of Technology in 1972 at an educational exhibition called "Man and Work". Placed in an instructional room equipped with low benches and high spirits, she would arouse the workers' awareness of their own body and, consequently, an urge to protect it for further work. Raising her arms emphatically towards the spire of the Palace of Culture and Science, she displays a gesture of total surrender of her bare body to the spectator's gaze. We can see her, we can see through her. The Glass Woman would serve as a self-image of the workers' body, as an improved corporeal mirror, as a body with organs mapping the unknown inside them. In order to feel their organs, they, even as men, had to identify with the silent, stationary woman. She was prescient of the times to come when the so called "soft skills", the emotional work would be at the heart of economic production. Under electrical impulses, the Glass Woman performs for us an educational show whose multiple meanings and inflections we can re-interpret on and on.

The Bureau of Melodramatic Research is a dependent institution engaged in examining how key elements of melodrama are currently at the core of economic production and political spectacle. BMR adopts melodramatic tactics to reveal and subvert patterns of valorization which are presently legitimizing and perpetuating the capitalist system by studying specific cases locally and abroad. Among its recent activity is the founding of the online Radio Prolife in Bucharest, hacking back the life from Prolife and expanding it to a non-reductionist spectrum - including both diverse forms of life, human and nonhuman and forms of death, biological and political. Other actions include a research on the Soul of Sustainability in Vienna and Bucharest, offering Creativity Counseling for Artists in Warsaw, surveying the Gross National Heel in Chisinau, Moldova and the revealing of the Ghirțoiu/Stănescu Archive.

poster by Krzysztof Bielecki

Protect Your Heart at Work, Zagreb, 2012, photo: Elvis Krstulović

Protect Your Heart at Work, Stockholm, 2013, photo: Santiago Mostyn