Assembly LINE in Production and Consumption

As I have been observing, it seems that consumer behavior is becoming similarly programmed for speed and efficiency. I’ve noticed people ordering food at the restaurant and consuming it in similar ways as I saw at McDonalds. [Perhaps this is why the Slow Food movement is fashionably growing.] Besides obvious concerns for the physical body that result from this, I am more sensitive to how the SOCIAL BODY is impacted.

It seems that there is an increasing lack of eye contact between customer and worker, making the individual worker (and consumer!) nameless, faceless subjects. A video piece by Yoshua Okon, Todos Los Empleados, Todos Los Carl’s Jr, Todo L.A., beautifully articulates this condition.

Todos Los Empleados, Todos Los Carl’s Jr, Todo L.A., 2002
Yoshua Okon
video still
click on image to view video

For the piece, the artist went to every Carl’s Jr restaurant in the Los Angeles area and filmed each employee introducing him/herself behind the counter. He then overlaid each piece of footage, with the cumulative effect creating an erasure of the individual’s identity, a whiteness or blankness; the "talking head" of the employee disappears, and the body becomes eradicated. As the artist noted in the catalog to the exhibition, Blanc, (Fall 2003) at the Embassy of Mexico in Washington, DC:

"Film and video are made out of light and the addition of more layers means the addition of more light: the more light the brighter and whiter the image becomes. We end up with an individual on one side of the spectrum and white on the other. White in this case, becomes a metaphor for lack, for the inexistence of the individual in the face of standardization," (Okon 2003).

A highly politically charged work, this video has stuck in my mind and demonstrates the sign of alienation that is the consumer society, the society of the spectacle, in which the presence of the individual is rendered blank, erased. As individuality is erased, the SOCIAL of the SOCIAL BODY becomes taken in an absorbed into the whiteness of being nodes on a communication network, channels through which information and data flows, rather than intersubjective experiences are made.


I was trying to find an image of a Marina Abramovic performance that I want to discuss, but instead came across this interview with Laurie Anderson (also a performance artist).

On Abramovic's performance, The House with the Ocean View...

MA: "People would come like drunks—instead of a shot of vodka they came to have a shot of this connection with the eyes. They came in the morning; at quarter to nine they were there waiting, in business suits. The gallery would open at nine, and they would come in, look at me for 20 minutes and go away. A lot of them told me later that they are not even connected to art. I was thinking that people usually don't look at them in this intimate way, so maybe they just needed to be looked at in that way before going to work."

LA: "It reminds me how much of a defense language is. And how distancing it is—it's called communicating, but often it's not. Sometimes it's just these clever things that we set up, and often they actually get in the way of what we mean."

Here both artists suggest it is the body that needs recognition and contact with other bodies and the environment. Marina's performance created this space of material interaction in the frame of art, just as Orozco's photography and a later post on camera phones, will assert.