Mobile labour beyond the film-set : an exegesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Masters in Fine Arts at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

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Massey University
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This exegesis follows a trajectory that starts with Jonathan Beller’s observation that the contemporary spectator now ‘labours in the image’. Essentially, Beller suggests that vision and perception of the screen image is the fundamental value-productive labour for the modern spectator. The central argument of this exegesis is to refute Beller’s concept of the ‘looking as labour’. I suggest that sensual, corporeal and phenomenological perception, as embodied in a range of labour practices surrounding the physical film-set, has the potential to offer slippages and ruptures in the homogenising cinematic mode of production of the ‘screen image’. This is developed through analysis of how my own, and some other artists’ practices explore unexpected areas: marginalised and forgotten histories, new narratives, material realities and imaginings. Therefore the narratives that unfold in the exegesis range across film extras’ personal stories, reports of communities’ interactions with filmsets, artists’ re-creation of classic film-sets, archival research and my own industrial film production experience and exploration of abandoned sets. Starting with the ‘looking as labour’, the exegesis moves to a consideration of ‘labour in the film-set’ to a concept of ‘mobile labour beyond the film-set’ . Notions discussed include forms of the underground, film noirs, the world fair, crazy house and film-set ruin. Through discussion of my own work and that of other artists and theorists, this exegesis illustrates the ways in which the cross-fertilisation of these concepts can lead to far more variegated, and dynamic, uses of ‘labour’ than Beller suggests. Artist’s brought into the discussion include Peter Brosnan, Krassimir Terziev, Sean Lynch, Goshka Macuga, Abbas Kiarostami and Pierre Huyghé, while critics and theorists mentioned include Susan Stewart, Michel de Certeau, Vivian Sobchack, Martin Heidegger, Paul Virilio, David Pike and Henri Lefebvré.
Movie sets, Jonathan Beller, Film production