I LOVE working with archive/public domain videos! Of course, they are easy to access – especially on the Internet Archive archive.org, my FAV place online, but you also have the opportunity to reframe the past or make commentary-style visual works. Context is somewhat removed in historical and found footage so it’s no easy task to either attempt to recreate historical context or to frame the message within a new, contemporary context.
One of my early works manipulating archive videos is workworkworkwork (2015). I didn’t go super deep with this one, but was struck by the repetitiveness of the footage. I thought about monotonous, repetitive work, that in some cases has been outsourced to machines, but in other cases has been outsourced to overworked and underpaid workers. 😦
Original description with the video:
Re-edit of a collection of workers filmed by Frank Bunker Gilbreth, who studied workers’ motions in order to improve efficiency. He was also the central character in Cheaper by the Dozen.
Despite research into how to improve the ways in which workers do their work (Gilbreth wanted to improve conditions for workers, but some of his contemporaries just wanted to increase profits, rather than concern themselves with workers’ welfare), it still seems rather unnatural for human beings to be doing repetitive tasks, like a machine. In modern times, we hear about workers in factories being forced to do repetitive tasks in sterile conditions, without breaks or time to feel…human. Many have, sadly, killed themselves.
This is a short piece, showing the monotony and repetitiveness, seemingly driven by Gilbreth’s motion clock. It is also a study in early industry, which some may say was the beginning of the end of art in making things.
Music by egohygiene https://www.egohygiene.ch/