13 February 2014

Workers Leaving the Factory 6

"Harun Farocki's Workers Leaving the Factory, currently on show at FACT's Time & Motion exhibition, is a compilation of film clips put together by the artist, each depicting workers leaving factories. These old clips highlight, among other things, the distinction between work and home life: the iron factory gates in many of the clips overtly suggest that one environment is the prison and the other the free world.

In today’s world, modern technology has permeated these iron gates. Work related emails penetrate the outside world. We are therefore always contactable, which in turn means old lines of distinction between work and home life are blurred.

Ignoring a work email during home hours is unthinkable: smart phones notify us of their existence instantaneously. Whilst we can theoretically choose not to answer, this is a course rarely taken, as doing so would give employers cause to accuse workers of neglecting their workload. Using personal devices for work also means that we are always reminded of the workload waiting for us at the office.

I have read articles in the past suggesting that we should work and relax in separate environments. Doing so, in theory, makes it easy for to us mentally distance ourselves from productivity in order to relax and sleep. Through technology work is a mobile entity; we are never away from it and therefore cannot fully relax. This all leads to a feeling of claustrophobia in which work is ever present and inescapable. Technology therefore elevates working life above home life, allowing it to cast a shadow outside of contracted and balanced hours."

Time & Motion: Redefining Working Life is at FACT until 9 March. For more information on the exhibition, please visit the Time & Motion project page.