Let’s imagine work. Lately there has been a myriad of discussions about its possible forms: there are talks about legalisation of home office, after decades of feministic efforts we continue to try to draw attention to unpaid home work, we explore the possibilities of unconditional basic income or twenty-hour work week, mechanisation of uncreative work or qualitative reevaluation of working conditions. Work, work, work! As if we keep on trying to imagine alternatives in this no future society where CVs are more important than human faces (really?), that are most of the time hidden behind a laptop screen anyway.
“How Exhaustion Became a Status Symbol” is the title of an e-flux article that I was too exhausted to read. Burnout has become something almost desirable, because those who don’t at least come close to it are apparently not surfing on the accelerating wave of success (I suppose that is roughly what the text suggests). Yes, we can imagine alternatives, but don’t we pray for them in the wrong temple, professing religion that does not care that a large part of our lives is defined by something that truly fulfils hardly anyone? Of course we can love our job. And if we don’t, then at the very least we know how to enjoy spending our reward. So why the frustration? Why the apathy? Why the dissatisfaction? We can blame the system, but let me quote a friendly (and notorious) reminder: We are the system. And as we know so well, the hardest part is changing ourselves.
Imagine a girl. Her profession could be pleasant (which is hard to judge from watching it on my flat screen) and it certainly is supposed to bring pleasure to others. The term “the oldest profession”, i.e. treating one’s own body and sexuality as goods in the sense of “production” as well as “consumption”, has always been charged with an ambiguous mix of attraction, oppression and repulsion. Even though in certain times this profession could provide access to personal freedom as well as represent it (for women obviously in a different way than for men), it always came at a price. Today providing sex for money has become more “democratic” thanks to the endless possibilities of recording and online access, which created a global network of viewers who might not want to (or might not be able to) directly physically engage in the activity themselves.
Pornographic industry became a guru of technological innovations in the sense of broadening the possibilities of virtual communications. There is no stronger force than desire, and when combined with technology, miracles happen: we can spy from a distance, (almost) be there, (almost) feel it. Live chat, Skype- those are mere sterilised and widespread versions of original achievements of this pioneering industry. Connection is fast and content more accessible than ever. It is odd that in the mean time, creating this content has become a job almost as any other. It looks a little repetitive. Standardised. It seems frustrating at times. Although there are some nuances in current trends, even the wildest of excesses have their own designated place in the database of categorised lust. On a macro level it is so predictable. So easy to navigate through. So hard to be surprised. And on a micro level, oh yes. Plots of most porn movies (save for some remarkable exceptions) are mere endless variations of movements in loops, unimaginative sets and routine work procedures:
Open your laptop. Reply to several emails. Scroll through Facebook. Go to a meeting. Take a lunch break. Chew some pieces of whatever is available in the nearest surroundings, ideally pieces of something you did not eat yesterday. Reply to some more emails. More, more, more! – Yes! Enough for today. Breath out and close your laptop. Tomorrow you start over again.
Or even (maybe in a little retro-romantic spirit): Check in when you come in. Stand next to your machine. Do it. Once, twice, three times, four times… Many times. Go for lunch. Have a big portion of whatever they serve you. Return to your place. Change your position- do it again. Again and again. Until your working time is over. No climax today, what a shame! Maybe next time. Maybe on payday.
Perhaps we should not expect more from it: this is just the way it is. But wait: do we really have to surrender to apathy or trade real fulfilment for a hunt for a mere “more”? Can’t we imagine some alternatives, more creative, more individual, real, more fulfilling? The girl seems to be OK. It even looks like she is enjoying her work to a certain extent, although female orgasm is somewhat extracurricular in this field. It is a specific type of routine, but she knows it well and within this intimacy she can find a space for relaxation. Or even something close to meditation, sometimes. One time she really flew away. To another sphere, even more virtual than her own moving image on a computer screen of a lascivious viewer. She says she has turned into and MPEG. A mere fragment of a Silicon Valley dictionary that includes everything and does not mean anything (other than abbreviation of Motion Pictures Expert Group). Yes, she has become a master in moving away. In abstraction. In dematerialisation. In dissociation? She almost managed to disappear, but her film was still there and somewhat chased those four letters after the point. Even though they cannot even be seen on the porn site. You would have to download the video in order to see them (her), which no one does anymore these days. And yet still you would not grasp even a tiny percent of her, she would be on your screen just as on any other screen. She has mastered the art of being everywhere and nowhere. And still she could not escape.
A friendly reminder: an escape should not be mistaken for a change from the inside. Shall we try to reconsider the meaning of the word “more”?
- I can’t feel anything.00:00:01.739
- Not even sadness.00:00:06.101
- I sense neither future nor past.00:00:13.715
- There are two basic levels to this work,00:00:16.887
- the first one is a story of a woman, almost a girl still,00:00:20.212
- who is talking about her profession, her relationship with it,00:00:24.900
- and at first it is not entirely clear what sort of profession it is00:00:28.448
- but later on we gradually discover it is quite an exposed profession,00:00:31.265
- she is a porn actress,00:00:36.489
- and she is talking about her virtualization,00:00:39.358
- her transition to the digital sphere,00:00:43.575
- where she is captured merely by the video,00:00:46.893
- she is everywhere, she is nowhere,00:00:49.640
- she is moving away in a way,00:00:51.640
- and the final step is that she becomes an MPEG,00:00:54.464
- a mere extension to a video file.00:01:03.976
- I am no more.00:01:15.448
- Or I am everywhere.00:01:19.555
- I am the sum of everything.00:01:27.782
- I am invisible, but also ubiquitous.00:01:34.011
- I decided to leave everything.00:01:49.529
- It was a relief actually.00:01:52.680
- It started gradually.00:02:01.426
- I would come to a room, say something, and nobody even noticed.00:02:04.238
- It is a certain allegory of a dissociation,00:02:12.453
- moving away from one's own body, own essence,00:02:16.585
- she is talking about her own self,00:02:20.526
- about not coming to terms with the way she functions,00:02:22.526
- and it is not supposed to be some sort of feministic critique of this genre,00:02:25.464
- but more of a work with one's own self in relationship with one’s profession in general,00:02:31.554
- and this is how we get to the other level,00:02:41.537
- that the whole allegory of the porn industry or sexual treating of one’s own body00:02:44.621
- is an allegory of work itself, the repetitiveness, standardization,00:02:54.449
- the question whether there is another alternative to how we can approach both,00:03:01.297
- towards the end of her narration she is thinking about certain alternatives,00:03:09.470
- she is discussing the possibility of whether this is the only way to function00:03:16.331
- and to relate to one’s own integrity or own body in general.00:03:22.902
- It would start over again.00:03:33.363