In the current phase of late capitalism, we are experiencing a crucial contradiction every day. On the one hand, the increasing automation of productive processes is apparently making John Maynard Keynes’s promise of a post-work society not only more real, but also closer; on the other hand, labour – far from disappearing – is colonising and altering any given moment and aspect of our existence. The rise of precarious labour has freed us from the alienation of a permanent job, but has also made our lives more unstable and anxious, and is producing new social diseases. The increasing automation has made us more unemployed – a condition we are frantically trying to escape with micro-labours, turning us into “entrepreneurs of the self”.
Simultaneously, the explosion of the information society, with the rise of personal media devices – such as the smartphone – and social media, has brought a pantagruelic growth of what has been called peripheral work: the daily, fragmented, uninterrupted, unwaged labour we do for ourselves – reading and answering emails, shaping our online identity on multiple platforms – and, increasingly, for the companies that make profit from our online interactions and data. Every time we run a search, send a message, upload content, consume content, solve a “captcha”, authorise an app to access our position, monitor our walks or our sleep, we are working for somebody. Even the increasingly developing field of artificial intelligence, from machine vision to neural networks to chatbots, while promising to automate all the things, is actually generating more invisible, unregulated, underpaid human labour, and it is often educated by our online behaviours.
The result is that labour, far from fading out, has overrun the working days and hours and become a 24/7 activity: but instead of making us wealthier, happier and more stable, has made us more anxious and poor, and is depriving us of the future. This evolution and crisis of labour is the subject of an ongoing artistic research, for various reasons: first, because it is correctly perceived as one of the aspects of a more general crisis of the future and its imaginaries, to which artistic practice cannot but respond; second, because artistic labour has been inevitably affected by this evolution, from all points of view: precarious by definition, based on self-entrepreneurship and on means of production that have been radically changed by globalisation, outsourcing and automation; finally, because the evolution of labour allows us to observe the man-machine complexity that is one of the crucial nodes of our present.
Hyperemployment – a word borrowed from media theorist Ian Bogost, describing “the Exhausting Work of the Technology User” – is a year-long programme focused on post-work, online labour, AI and automation, conceived as an attempt to scrutinise and explore some of these issues. Featuring a group exhibition with the same name, a symposium, several solo exhibitions, and a final catalogue presentation, Hyperemployment covers a variety of topics, from automation to the gig economy, the end of free time and self-improvement apps, social media fatigue and quantification, AI and the post-work society.

 
 
 

 
 
 

Sašo Sedlaček
Om for Coin
PERFORMANCE

Wednesday, November 6, 2019 at 7 PM

and
SOLO EXHIBITION

November 12–29, 2019
Aksioma | Project Space
Komenskega 18, Ljubljana

Busy being Lazy
STREET EXHIBITION

November 5–28, 2019
Opening: Tuesday, November 5, 2019 at 5 PM
TAM-TAM Street Gallery
Vegova Ulica, Ljubljana

With the rise of artificial intelligence and the automation of labour, the value of human non-work is about to radically change. With the performance and exhibition Om for Coin, we mark the launch of the blockchain platform Oblomo, which aims at turning non-work into a value with the help of blockchain technology. Users on the platform will mint the Oblomo cryptocurrency by being still, sitting, meditating or lying down in front of their devices, while observed by a machine learning software rig (the AI rig). In the performance Om for Coin, three “miners” will be sitting still while performing the meditation mantra “Om” in front of a live audience. All the while, the AI rig will be surveilling them and recording their meditation into the blockchain. This procedure will create the first record of blocks in a long chain of blocks that will follow in the continuation of the project, throughout 2020. The central part of the performance is the realisation of the protocol in which certain conditions must be met: the surveillance of idle miners by the AI rig in a process that is verified by the audience.

A billboard campaign with the slogan “Busy being Lazy” will be launched the day before the performance: an urban intervention that sits in-between mere advertisement and an invitation to rethink idleness as the ultimate form of labour.

A co-production with Drugo more in the framework of the Dopolavoro flagship of the Rijeka 2020 – European Capital of Culture project.
In partnership with TAM-TAM.





Michael Mandiberg
Postmodern Times
SCREENING

January 7–10, 2020
Opening: Tuesday, January 7, 2020 at 7 PM
Aksioma | Project Space
Komenskega 18, Ljubljana

A modernist masterpiece and an iconic portrait of the Great Depression and of industrialisation, Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936) has been outrun, over the last three decades, by the new organisation of labour introduced by late capitalism and post-Fordism, to the point that it’s hard for younger generations to empathise with the Little Tramp. By asking gig workers to re-enact scenes from the movie, American artist Michael Mandiberg not only updated it for the 21st century, but also triggered a distributed theatre of the (post-Fordist) oppressed, which is now documented in this remake entitled Postmodern Times. If Modern Times is a portrait of the Fordist organisation of work (the assembly line), by involving 182 digital freelancers living in over 25 countries, Postmodern Times portrays the digital factory and the post-Fordist organisation of work, in which workers have no wage, and work (usually from home) on small, underpaid tasks for often unknown clients.




Sanela Jahić
Uncertainty-in-the-Loop
EXHIBITION

September 9–October 2, 2020
Opening: Wednesday, September 9, 2020 at 7 PM
Aksioma | Project Space
Komenskega 18, Ljubljana

Creativity is usually perceived as something new, divergent and original that takes people by surprise; something that could never be expressed in the form of executable code or emulated by a machine. And yet, many tasks which might entail human faculties such as intuition, empathy and creativity, are already being outsourced to increasingly capable automated and automatising systems that just perform them differently. In her recent work, Sanela Jahić converted her artistic labour into data, and then turned the decision making over to a predictive algorithm that determines the content and aesthetics of her next artwork. In the final stage of the project, which will be premiered in this exhibition, Jahić has started feeding the algorithm not only data about her past work, but also a look at her contemporary investigations as an early window into the present disorganisation of her thoughts. How will this affect her future work?

A co-production with Drugo more and the Škofja Loka Museum in the framework of the Dopolavoro flagship of the Rijeka 2020 – European Capital of Culture project.
In partnership with the Faculty of Computer and Information Science of the University of Ljubljana.



 

Domenico Quaranta (curator)
Hyperemployment
GROUP EXHIBITION

November 7, 2019–January 19, 2020
Opening: Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 6 PM
MGLC - International Centre of Graphic Arts
Grad Tivoli, Pod turnom 3, Ljubljana

Featured artists: Danilo Correale, Elisa Giardina Papa, Sanela Jahić, Silvio Lorusso, Jonas Lund, Michael Mandiberg, Sebastian Schmieg, Guido Segni

Labour – one of the defining aspects of our capitalistic societies – is also one of the sides of contemporary life that has been more affected by technological innovations and by the advent of post-Fordism. Although increasing automation has actually caused many forms of human labour to disappear, it has not – as many thinkers have predicted – brought an end to labour. Instead, it has led to – together with other innovations, such as the rise of device culture and social networks – its fragmentation into plenty of micro labours and its infiltration into every moment of life. In other words, today, no matter if we are unemployed, self-employed or working at a regular full-time job, as “technology users” we are always working. Hyperemployment is a group show meant to explore these and other dimensions of what labour has become through the works of eight international artists who have focused their research on the topics of automation and gig economy, the end of free time and self-improvement apps, social media fatigue and quantification, among others.

A co-production with MGLC – International Centre of Graphic Arts.
In partnership with the Italian Cultural Institute, Ljubljana.




Elisa Giardina Papa
Post-Work? I’ll Learn to See Myself Exactly as You Want Me To
EXHIBITION

January 15–February 14, 2020
Opening: Wednesday 15, 2020 at 8 PM
Aksioma | Project Space
Komenskega 18, Ljubljana

Post-Work? I’ll Learn to See Myself Exactly as You Want Me To is a video essay and a series of digital paintings examining automation and machine vision in relationship to post-work. Specifically, the project focuses on the human infrastructure that undergirds and sustains the functioning of machine vision and asks: What human tasks are necessary to enable machines to see? In what ways is human work restructured as one of the many operations of machine vision? What is at stake in the encounter between workers and seeing machines? How is human perception restrained by computer vision?
The third piece in a trilogy of works focusing on labour, automation and digital economies, Elisa Giardina Papa’s installation Post-Work? I’ll Learn to See Myself Exactly as You Want Me To draws upon the personal experience of the artist as a micro-task worker for machine vision tech companies. Mixing storytelling and aesthetic research, the work will be premiered at Aksioma | Project Space.




!Mediengruppe Bitnik
Work Hard. Have Fun. Make History.
EXHIBITION

October 7–30, 2020
Opening and Artist Talk: Wednesday, October 7, 2020 at 7 PM
Aksioma | Project Space
Komenskega 18, Ljubljana

Almost every part of our lives, online and offline, is now shaped, informed or controlled in some way by algorithms. We are allowing data control systems increasing amounts of agency over our lives. And work makes no exception. Algorithms and data systems are especially prevalent in the work sectors concerned with fast delivery and travel. In these workfields, companies have adopted algorithmic management as a means to instruct, track and evaluate a crowd of casual workers they do not employ, so to deliver a responsive, seamless, standardised service. Those deploying algorithmic management say it creates new employment opportunities, better and cheaper consumer services, transparency and fairness. But what does it really mean, when your boss is an algorithm? How does this change the power structures within the field of labour? With their new project Work Hard. Have Fun. Make History, !Mediengruppe Bitnik wants to research into this obscure territory, with a focus on the question of control and the moment of losing control, where errors and glitches suddenly make the underlying code-structures visible.

In partnership with Drugo more in the framework of the Dopolavoro flagship of the Rijeka 2020 – European Capital of Culture project.



 

vv.aa.
AUTOMATE ALL THE THINGS!
SYMPOSIUM

Day 1
Domenico Quaranta
Portraying the Invisible Crowd
TALK
January 14, 2020 at 11 AM
The Academy of Fine Arts and Design of the University of Ljubljana
Erjavčeva cesta 23, Ljubljana, classroom 7, first floor

Day 2
vv.aa.
KEYNOTES, ROUND TABLE and LECTURE PERFORMANCE
January 15, 2020 at 5 PM
Moderna galerija Auditorium
Cankarjeva cesta 15, Ljubljana

Speakers: Elisa Giardina Papa, Sanela Jahić, Silvio Lorusso, Michael Mandiberg, Sašo Sedlaček, Sebastian Schmieg



In the framework of Hyperemployment, the symposium AUTOMATE ALL THE THINGS! wants to explore a contradiction implicit in the increasing automation of work: is this process, which should apparently open up a new age of free time, no labour and universal basic income, instead turning humans into software agents, invisible slaves of the machines? Welcomed as a curse by the Luddites at the very beginning of the industrial age, throughout the 20th century, automation did not destroy human labour, but profoundly changed its organisation on a global scale. In the late-20th century, technological innovations brought automation to a brand new level, accelerating the shift toward a post-industrial economic model. Today, with many jobs previously run by humans becoming fully automated, the dream – or nightmare – of a post-work society seems closer than ever; and yet, at a closer look, automation in its current form isn’t destroying human labour. Rather, it is making it invisible.

A co-production with the Museum of Modern Art Ljubljana and the Academy of Fine Arts and Design of the University of Ljubljana.
In partnership with the Italian Cultural Institute, Ljubljana.

Part of the conference series Tactics&Practice.




Anna Ridler
Mosaic Virus and Myriad (Tulips)
EXHIBITION

February 19–March 20, 2020
Opening and Artist Talk: Wednesday, February 19, 2020 at 7 PM
Aksioma | Project Space
Komenskega 18, Ljubljana

The introduction of generative adversarial networks (GANs) in 2014 and the launch of Google Deep Dream in 2015, have made artificial intelligence (AI) the topic and medium of many artworks in recent years. In most cases, however, the debate has either focused on a comparison between human intelligence and machine intelligence, or on wondering if algorithms can replace artists and “make art” themselves. In this framework, Anna Ridler’s work stands out for her effort to establish a feedback loop between herself and the machine, producing work that displays and thematises the amount of human labour involved in the process, from coding, to producing a dataset, to educating the machine. Furthermore, her series Mosaic Virus and Myriad (Tulips) – shown internationally and set to premiere in Slovenia at Aksioma –, both inspired by “tulip mania”, are an investigation into the financial bubbles, futures markets and cryptocurrencies in the form of an upgraded, dynamic still life.




Sašo Sedlaček
Oblomo
EXHIBITION

November 4–27, 2020
Opening: Wednesday, November 4, 2020 at 7 PM
Aksioma | Project Space
Komenskega 18, Ljubljana

Borrowing its name from Ivan Goncharov’s character Ilya Ilyich Oblomov, the laziest character in world literature, the Oblomo project is a “non-work for work” trading platform. The project raises the question: can doing nothing be the ultimate form of labour in the age of automation? By employing the same technologies that make us actually work all the time, such as biometrics, the Oblomo platform turns laziness into a value, both ethically and economically. It democratises once privileged values and changes our perspective on laziness from something despicable into something worthy, thus turning laziness into a productive activity with purchasing power.

Based on a blockchain with its own cryptocurrency, the Oblomo platform rewards users for being still. When the machine learning software rig (the AI rig) detects the user’s non-activity, it rewards him/her with Oblomo coins. In this process, known as coin minting, the system creates coins from an Om block – the foundation of the blockchain – which functions in the system as raw material and is mined according to the protocol set forth in the performance Om for Coin. With the earned coins in the wallet, users can go to the platform’s market and buy various services and goods offered by other users who want to earn more coins.

A co-production with Drugo more in the framework of the Dopolavoro flagship of the Rijeka 2020 – European Capital of Culture project.






     
     
     
 

Hyperemployment
A year-long programme focused on post-work, online labour and automation
Co-curated by Domenico Quaranta & Janez Janša

Head of production: Marcela Okretič
Executive producer: Sonja Grdina
Translator into Slovenian: Maja Lovrenov
English language editor: Jana Renée Wilcoxen
Slovenian language editor: Nataša Požun  
Visual identity: Federico Antonini, Alessio D'Ellena (superness.info)

Production:
Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana, 2019–2020

In collaboration with:
Academy of Fine Arts and Design of the University of Ljubljana
Drugo More
Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Slovenia
MGLC – The International Centre of Graphic Arts
Moderna galerija
TAM-TAM



Supported by:
the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia, the Municipality of Ljubljana.

Uncertainty-in-the-Loop by Sanela Jahić, Work Hard. Have Fun. Make History. by !Mediengruppe Bitnik, and Oblomo by Sašo Sedlaček are integral parts of the Dopolavoro flagship of the Rijeka 2020 – European Capital of Culture project, with support from the City of Rijeka – Department for Culture, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia and the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Croatia.

Aksioma’s programme is additionally supported by the Ministry of Public Administration as part of the public call for co-financing projects for the development and professionalisation of NGOs and volunteerism.

Media partners:
Neural, DPG




Contact:
Aksioma | Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana