Session #9 - Dr Marina Vishmidt - LABOUR POWER PLANT


Session #9 - 31 January 2020

Organised by Dr Marina Vishmidt with guests including Professor Diamond Ashiagbor, Bahar Noorizadeh, Romana Schmalisch , Robert Schlicht and Elena Vogman.

"People with their own wills, interests and desires are being equipped with the different physiological, cognitive, psychological and social core competencies to transform them into human resources. Meanwhile, the management is introducing new methods to enrich the products with the innovative features of “self-evaluation”, “self-optimisation”, and, most importantly, “self-fulfilment”. A series of interventions are performed, leading to an assembly that may appear strange at first sight." -- Schmalisch and Schlicht, 2019

Involving two parts, a Film Screening (12.00-14.00) and a Small Group Forum for Presentations and Discussion (15.00-18.00), this MARs Session will take Romana Schmalisch and Robert Schlicht's 2019 film Labor Power Plant as matrix and point of departure for lines of thought moving through technology, corporeality, the organisation of work, performance, and quantified subjects.

The film showcases a number of exercises in a hypothetical French training centre, and is itself an exercise in how to bring labour to the screen, finding a welter of ongoing problems under the current conditions: how to mediate spectacle and instruction, discipline and expression, individuals and metrics? Labour in, as, or no longer subject to, representation?

These are problems of aesthetics, of theatre, as much as they are of labour and economy, and perhaps testify to how radical projects of movement and behaviour often found their mirror in labour in modernist avant-gardes. Yet this legacy finds itself in a problematic (non-) place when futurity has abandoned both the body and the machine.

Part 1: Film Screening of Labor Power Plant (Romana Schmalisch and Robert Schlicht, 2019)

Part 2: Small Group Forum for Presentations and Group Discussion

Presentation Schedule

  • Romana Schmalisch and Robert Schlicht, ‘Introducing Labour Power Plant
  • Marina Vishmidt, ‘Some Reflections on Abstract Labour’
  • Elena Vogman, ‘The Mise-en-Scene of Disenchantment: Eisenstein's Glass House, and the Dream of Transparency’
  • Diamond Ashiagbor - ’Telling stories about labour, law and development’
  • Bahar Noorizadeh - 'After Scarcity'

/ Short Break /

  • Group Discussion



Diamond Ashiagbor is an interdisciplinary legal scholar whose work spans labour, development, economic sociology of law, and law and the humanities. She teaches and researches on labour law, trade and development, regional integration (the European Union and the African Union), human rights, equality and multiculturalism. She has recently edited the collection, Re-imagining labour law for development: informal work in the global North and South, 2019. Diamond is Professor of Law at the University of Kent and was previously Professor of Labour Law at SOAS University of London. She has held visiting positions at Columbia Law School, Melbourne Law School, and Osgoode Hall. She is a member of the editorial board of Feminist Legal Studies and of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Advisory Board.

Bahar Noorizadeh is an artist, writer, and filmmaker. She is a founding member of BLOCC (Building Leverage over Creative Capitalism), a research and education platform that proposes pedagogy as a strategy to alter the relationship between Contemporary Art and urban renewal. Her work has appeared in the Tate Modern Artists’ Cinema Program, DIS Art platform, Transmediale Festival, Berlinale Forum Expanded, Geneva Biennale of Moving Images, Beirut Art Center, among others. Noorizadeh's current research examines the intersections of finance, Contemporary Art and emerging technology, building on the notion of “Weird Economies” to precipitate a cross-disciplinary approach to economic futurism and post-financialization imaginaries. She is pursuing this as a PhD candidate in Art Practice at Goldsmiths, University of London where she holds a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship.

Romana Schmalisch studied fine arts at the Berlin University of the Arts. She was an artist-in-residence at many institutions including the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht, Studio Voltaire in London and Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers. Robert Schlicht studied philosophy at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Together, Schmalisch and Schlicht work at the interface of film and theory to grapple with how historical processes and societal structures can be reproduced in film. The themes of labour in capitalist societies are a focal point in their exhibitions, performance series and films. Their research has taken them inside places like employment agencies and training centres. Their works include the 2013–2014 screening and performance series “The Choreography of Labour” at Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers, the play All the best from Labour Power Plant at La Commune – Centre Dramatique National in Aubervilliers in 2017, and the exhibitions “Titre de travail” at FRAC Grand Large–Hauts-de-France in Dunkerque, and “Humanity at Work” at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, both 2018. Their feature film Labour Power Plant premiered in 2019 (Berlinale).

Marina Vishmidt is a writer and editor. She teaches at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her work has appeared in South Atlantic Quarterly, Ephemera, Afterall, Journal of Cultural Economy, Australian Feminist Studies, and Radical Philosophy, among others, as well as a number of edited volumes. She is the co-author of Reproducing Autonomy (with Kerstin Stakemeier) (Mute, 2016), and Speculation as a Mode of Production: Forms of Value Subjectivity in Art and Capital (Brill 2018; Haymarket 2019). She is one of the organisers of the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought at Goldsmiths, a member of the Marxism in Culture collective and is on the board of the New Perspectives on the Critical Theory of Society series (Bloomsbury Academic).

Elena Vogman is a literary scholar, theorist and independent curator. She has published two books: Sinnliches Denken. Eisensteins exzentrische Methode (Diapahnes 2018) and Dance of Values. Sergei Eisenstein’s Capital Project (Diapahnes 2019). She currently teaches at the Art Academy Weißensee in Berlin and is working on a research project titled Madness, Media, Milieus Reconfiguring the Humanities in Postwar Europe at the Bauhaus-University in Weimar.