notes and writings

Published: 10/03/2020

Impossible Withdrawal: Note on Media and a Hyper-visible Workerism

In Collaboration with Hito Steyerl’s The Spam of the Earth

Due to the contagion of an airborne illness many have witnessed a turn to remote-work/school as a supplementary measure for the continuation of society. The in-person work relation has transitioned into a sociality mediated through the screen. For those “lucky” enough to have a remote occupation, daily interaction has become, even more so a part of those “dense clusters of radio waves” which emanate from our devices. Mentioned in Hito Steyerl’s The Spam of the Earth: Withdrawal from Representation our “intimate and official communications” are building the architecture of these wireless communications, as drifting image-doubles of our deepest desires and worst fears. Steyerl mentions a counter-revolt forming against digital surveillance as a comportment that is “actively avoiding photographic or moving-image representations,” assuming there is a distance that can be taken from the camera if one so chooses (Steyerl, 165). A choice that seems to grow narrower as we descend into a “socially distanced” world where this “avoidance” is not so simple. Many of us do not have the privilege to refuse to work or take a leave of absence, and must remain in front of a camera as a means of retaining a job, which is the equivalent to surviving under a ruthless capitalism. With this in view withdrawal from representation may be an impossible fantasy, only available for those highly privileged positions. This note marks a change in stakes when it comes to withdrawing from the camera, when working remotely has become the safest way to accumulate wealth. Work under these circumstances is governed by a kind of visual self-disciplining wherein the circulation of one’s image must remain tidy for consumption as a mode of self-production through the machine of the institution. The image of ‘you’, is being processed in real-time by the institution as the institution, and the paranoia and danger that comes with any slip of the tongue, when one’s performance is being documented has tangible consequences.

Urgent writing on the now