Alessandro: My understanding is that on a personal level “managers” struggle to prove to themselves and to others that they are capable of empathy, that they are sensible people, intelligent, open-minded and interested to develop this side of their personality, but what actually happens, because of all the pressure they face, the responsibility they carry and the training they receive, they cannot find place for these sensible aspects of their inner life in the working environment.
It seems like everything in the working environment is denying the possibility to use or develop this part. It’s the logic of productivity, of control and to a certain extent of the role-play. This dualistic interpretation will always take them as far as to consider any form of creative management, or perhaps humanistic approach to the working practice as contradictory to the logic of profit. It is funny how most of the ideas I propose with the artists are never really refused or censored as long as they are intended to happen “outside working time”, “during breaks” or in similar non-productive moments.
It is about avoiding the risk…because that’s the logic of optimization… but then this logic is making labor unbearable and alienating. Safety, productivity, discipline, everything gets in the way… but once you are resting it’s ok it’s important to create “community”; now this is where my project gets in… I don’t want to tell people what to do in their free time… it’s horrendous, it’s manipulation… even in your free time you have to listen or watch or do something proposed by the management…
I want to try to see how much is possible to influence working conditions with sensibility development… during working time, in the working environment and for specific individuals.
It is site-specific, people-specific and working-specific; it is part of the working time, not an added entertaining function. It promotes flexibility introducing more tension at the beginning and eventually make the whole mechanism more fragile or “exposed” (because of the unusual situation, the risks involved etc.) and see if something happens and new possibilities to think about work, management, retribution, capitalism itself, appear or if instead the two things prove to be impossible to put together… but I don’t want to count on systems theory or other existing evaluation methods or planning strategies to carry on my project: failure or success are not important at this stage: it is important that I started this and I found support and we are doing this: it is happening. Something will come out of it and other people will go further or it will just remain as an attempt.
The question is can there be a science that is not based exclusively on measurement? An understanding of the reality of human condition within the working environment that includes quality and experience and yet can be taken seriously as “scientific”.
In my view this is possible; we should not restrict neither life nor work only to measurements and quantitative analyses. I can consider scientific any approach to knowledge that fulfills these two parameters: all knowledge must be based on systematic observation and it must be expressed in terms of self-consistent but limited and approximate models. Quantum theory has changed the classical view of science considerably by revealing the crucial role of the observer’s consciousness in the process of observation and invalidated the idea of an objective description of things; nevertheless quantum theory is still based on measurements, reducing the properties of atoms to integral numbers.
A new science of consciousness will deal with qualities rather than quantities and will be based on shared experience rather than verifiable measurements. The patterns of experience constituting the data of such a science cannot be quantified or analyzed into fundamental elements and they will always be subjective to varying degrees. On the other hand, the conceptual models interconnecting the data must be logically consistent, like scientific elements and may even include quantitative elements.
Erik: Megumi had a breakdown because she saw herself as a non-productive being? Or because of looking at her art from the perspective of making products?
Alessandro: I just recorded her break down… I won’t ever really know what it was about…. but I can guess, as I know her pretty well, that this was about a strong ethical feeling she always bring into her art and her life; she wanted so much her presence, her action, her presence and her art to be “something valuable” that she was even ready to put in discussion her career choice.
This is an interesting situation, as it proves that the Social Sensibility Program works both ways (creating inner and outer challenges for the artists and for the workers and managers) and that certain artists naturally have great respect and commitment with their practice and their goals.
It was a revealing moment for me; if you think of it in a different perspective, all that power, to be around, to do things, to propose ideas to people working in such an optimized structure leaves you, as an artist and as a human being, weak and exposed. The same happened in another way when Chinese artists visited the factory , especially a couple of them who worked previously in factories for a long time….they felt touched by the context, surprised by the modernity of the structure and the good conditions… determined to do something special for this project but hesitant and even scared; workers and managers can see and feel artists attitudes and emotional response, and it ‘s the same the other way… and this is the beginning of a relationship whose complexity and potentiality are endless. The rigid scheme of hierarchies is weakened and made flexible, and “people with different competencies” come to meet in a no-name zone.
Another way that being a productive person might be restricting is that it forces you into living the eternally planned life where everything is accounted for, thought out and laid out to dry, preserved for the future instead of enjoyed in the present.
Add to this that new research shows that the way to happiness might not be putting on a constantly cheery attitude but the stoicism of accepting and examining uncertainty and failure up close.
Alessandro: Don’t you think that a “research on the nature of happiness” whatever results it attains, it is just another face of the same mechanism based on control and logic; now if the research proves you that you need to live like if there is no tomorrow to be “happy” whatever it means… then they will develop a school for that, a master degree and eventually even a PhD…
Again I would consider more “process”, experience, or ”bare life” to use Agamben’s words… working with time, with ourselves and the others. Not defining the nature of something changing or pretending to disclose its secret meaning.
In the XIX century, a philosopher and biologist ( I forgot the name) was testing all the possible combinations of two glasses of wine and two cup of coffee, writing down all his mood changes according of the sequence (a glass of wine, then a coffee, then another glass of wine, then another coffee would create a feeling of excitement and intellectual stimulation, while a cup of coffee followed by two glasses of wine would create some melancholia, then turned into anxiety by the second cup of coffee…..and so on…). This kind of experiment (when science and psychology and art were not so dissociated and their edges were blurred) and its conceptual frame still has a value in the 21st century, not on nostalgic-romantic or literary based, but as a scientific experiment in which recent psychology, physics and chemistry and art practice are engaged. If the exercise was to be taken on by more than one person the participatory part would add further potential for discoveries.
Erik: Something that i learned while visiting the factory as an ‘artist’ was that i was essentially allowed too do anything — photograph everything — pose any question.
It was so easy to, in a situation of some sort of power or higher standing, dictate the solutions and become very condescending in my approach to people for whom this factory was an everyday reality.
I understood that for this project to be fruitful, the attitude of anybody involved must be one of unassuming inquisitiveness, expecting no particular answer from nobody in particular but accepting all.
Essentially, workers and managers and artists recognizing each others as being alike, and perhaps for the artist to recognize that this art is created for other people.
I definitely agree with these words of yours: in these last two lines you resume not only the positive attitude to address this project, but also one its fundamentally emancipatory and egalitarian nature.
I think this project at least somewhat answers the question that shouldn’t even be asked in the first place: “what is art?”.
The unplanned nature where nothing is expected and the work is a journey of discovery allows for rethinking our taken for granted modes of living and working. If faced with deadlines, expectations and plans, we can only create products.
Haven’t really thought about it.