Assembly LINE in Production

[at Tryst now...library kicked me out; why it's not open 24 hours in the summer is a mystery]

Ultimately technology is about being productive – it’s expensive to make, to innovate, and maintain. Therefore, the capitalist funds it, causing a number of social, political, and economic impacts [for example, technology and development]. Marx articulated the relationship of the capitalist, the worker and technology in his essay, The machine versus the worker. The following passages note these changing relationships in regard to the industrial revolution:

  • "The object of improved machinery is to diminish manual labor, to provide for the performance of a process or the completion of a link in a manufacture by the aid of an iron instead of the human apparatus,"(Marx 156).
  • "Whenever a process requires peculiar dexterity and steadiness of hand, it is withdrawn, as soon as possible, from the cunning workman, who is prone to irregularities of many kinds," (Ibid.).
  • "Machinery...is constantly on the point of making him superfluous," (Ibid.).

The "self-acting" tool machinery that Marx sites as the characteristic feature of modern mechanical improvements created a blueprint for the later information industry, including patterns for social interaction of workers “within the machine” of industry. The assembly line leaped out of the factory and mapped itself onto the fabric of social relations of domestic life (work time onto leisure time; or production at work to consumption at home). Physically, its form is reinforced by the straight lines and right angles of streets and avenues, as well as modern homes and buildings, that "channel desires in ways that allow controlled moments of release necessary to keep the wheels of industry turning," (Taylor 30). With the utilitarianism of industrialization, rational (the Cartesian grid of universal reason) activity came to be associated with economic benefit. Imagination takes a backseat and time cannot afford to be wasted.


In today's era of late capitalism [Jameson], capitalism has benefited from technological innovation increasing productivity to the extent that consumption has turned into a productive force in its own right; consumption is the key organizing principle of contemporary society. Additionally, the product consumed is increasingly information-based, raising communication perhaps the main (only?) form of interaction/exchange.

One of the most visible ways to notice how the speed and efficiency programs of modernist, productive machineshave influenced our consumption behaviors, and therefore bodily movements, is in the restaurant. Having worked at McDonald’s for a number of years as a teenager, my body learned first-hand what I later read in George Ritzer’s The McDonaldization of Society. The assembly line production of food became a part of my muscles’ memory, and years later as I am waiting tables again, I am finding myself making the most efficient movements as possible in order to speedily serve the customer.

Mythology Machine/Chain Value, 2004
Kathryn Cornelius
performance still

In the performance art piece, Mythology Machine/Chain Value I explored the assembly line and worker subjectivity in relation to the production of academic discourse. The movements of the physical body in LINEAR production are mapped onto intellectual processes, and then remapped back onto the movements of the physical body; the mind follows the body and vice versa. As we produce in a LINE, we are beginning to consume, and generally move throughout our daily lives, in linear fashion.


[now at home...one more post before I sleep...]

According to the Microsoft Word Dictionary:

VIRTUAL = being something in effect even if not in reality

REAL = having actual physical existence; verifiable as actual fact, for example, legally or scientifically

A deconstructivist, postmodern perspective does not trust the second definition of the Real – "Fact" and science are examples of the definition of Virtual in this case (as ideological constructions). What about the first definition of Real, having actual PHYSICAL existence? This could also be debated, but as I am sitting here typing online with my stomach in pain because I am hungry, I am quickly reminded of my somatic life...

I am skeptical of accounts that describe the virtual as a completely disembodied state; the correspondence between the physical body and the language produced by a social body is what creates virtuality. The virtual shows assumptions about what it is, but it doesn’t actually produce any new language. This corresponds to the notion of attribution [the perceiver projects own qualities onto the object] that is at work in Plato’s allegory of the cave. As Baudrillard observes, objects themselves are communicative (Baudrillard 23). Thus, the discursive quality of both reality and virtuality puts them in similar categories of experience.

REALITY is as much a construction of language as VIRTUALITY, and neither require a material form to be maintained as categories by the SOCIAL BODY. However, to experience one or the other, a site of origin, the CORPOREAL body must be the launch pad. As Katherine Hayles reminds us, “at the end of the twentieth century, it is evidently still necessary to insist on the obvious: we are embodied creatures,” (Hayles 3).


[@ Soho Tea and Coffee - too many smokers here, the tv is showing sports-related bloopers that even those reading their books, or typing like i am, laugh out-loud - now there's some clapping. two girls from GWU are working on papers right next to me - I see the standard blank MS Word page with the heading, and introductory paragraph --a timely example of LINEAR FORM --!]


I promised myself that for this paper I would relax my self-expectations and write with my theories and concepts grounded in an object; I would take an artist or artwork and situate my text around it. Until this past Thursday, I was struggling...It was as if all of the media arts, virtual art, online art, etc. books and websites were just forcing the "virtuality" issue too much for me. I didn't want to take an object that was already situated deliberately in relation to VIRTUALITY; I wanted an object through which you could read an individual artist's embedded response to virtuality, without its direct voicing.

During our course I completed each reading on virtuality with hesitation; I was weary of jumping right on the virtual virtuality bandwagon. Thus, it is appropriate that I have decided to work with the photography and sculpture of Gabriel Orozco.

The Hirshhorn just hosted a talk on his work that is a part of their Directions series of exhibitions, entitled, Gabriel Orozco: Extension of Reflection. Mia Fineman provided a talk, When Poetry Happens---The Photographs of Gabriel Orozco, which fortunately was less saccharine than its title belied. Previously I had experienced Orozco's work at the Tate Modern in the exhibition, Common Wealth, which had his 1998 piece, Ping Pond Table, and:

Oval Billiard Table, 1996.

As I encountered more of Orozco's work, the presence of circles, ovals and spheres consistently throughout his work became evident. Fineman, at the end of her lecture on the photography included in Extension, made the comment that once you see his photography, you start discovering "Would Be Orozco's" in your daily life [this is the "poetry" part of the talk's title]. Having seen the exhibition a few times before the lecture, Fineman's comment reminded me of my own increased sensitivity to picking out the unexpected circles in my everyday experience. Fineman confessed to having taken a few of these "Would be's" herself. **I'll return to this in more detail later...

Why circles for Orozco? He has never come out and directly spoken on this. Instead, various reasons have been inscribed by others onto his work (as I myself will surely be guilty of as well). One curator [Francesco Bonami] has remarked of his practice as "a voyage into illogical consequences, through circular thought patterns, abandoning any linearity that would lead back to local traditions or go forward into the obsolesce of an international, molded style," (Bonami 17). This quote nicely describes the thinking I had been doing regarding movement, speed and virtuality, [ideas that will emerge in this blogsite], and how I would like to discuss these topics in relation to lines and circles.


The contrast of circular paths and linear trajectories began to develop for me as I attempted to visualize the concepts of “real” and “virtual” experience. In my own daily life I am very sensitive to how my body moves through the day, and how other people’s bodies relate to my own. A hypothesis I’ve held for a long while is the basis for the idea of the LINE in this account, and the CIRCLE is the form I’ve selected to serve as a counterpoint or (I am skeptical of this word, but I will use it anyway) “solution” to the increasing problem of linear movement. I believe that as technology paces our lives through its programs of efficiency and speed, the movement of our bodies are following suit, increasingly asked to perform with efficiency and speed that prevents our subjectivities from intersubjective experiences with others, the physical environment, and our own lived bodies.

The shortest distance between point A and point B is favored, and it must be performed at the quickest speed. This is the rhetoric of technology, which is the LINE. If we look at a dog chasing its own tail, we think its circular movement is silly and dumb, just as we only see kid spinning themselves “for no good reason at all,” and we think the CIRCLE they spin in is childish. But there is something happy in that movement, which is quietly experienced only by the individual moving in that fashion; if a straight line is walked, an objective is always reached.

A balance of experiences – both linear and circular – is needed if we are to keep our physical bodies viable enough to carry on our species.

At the core of this discussion is MOVEMENT. REALITY and VIRTUALITY are terms that are understood as nearly synonymous, the result of the same discursive practices. SPEED becomes a part of the discussion when the LIVED BODY moves into VIRTUALITY, the pace of which is facilitated by the choice of technological aid. Various artworks, mainly Orozco’s photographs, will come into play as images that support or demonstrate the points and positions of this discussion. In the end I hope to return to the beginning, circling back a few comments Fineman made during the Orozco lecture, and suggesting some movements to make that will hopefully engage the lived body with more awareness, and pleasurable slowness.