Angel of Labour

video, 17'20''


camera: Maria Grabareva

The rooms where I work as a maid have have names, not numbers (Burgundy, Silver, Jungle), this itself tunes up for an adventure.

The idea to film work process in reflections of specular surfaces appeared as a way to turn work into fun. In polished objects as if in parallel world everything seems different, deformed, awkward, and funny. In a shiny flower pot, a nickel-plated tap or a toilet paper holder we see not labour but a game of reflections, colors and shapes.

This ability to transform the everyday into a game, the mundane into the magical makes the second half of our consciousness where freedom and simplicity dwells.

«In the Marxian theory of alienation (Entfremdung in German): the worker, the proletariat, never sees the end product to whose manufacture he or she contributes. Therefore he or she is alienated from the (whole) work process.

On the one hand, the cleaner seems to be intimate with the space and surroundings she deals with. On the other hand, she operates in a foreign atmosphere (I take it that she is a cleaner, not the owner of the house) about which she does not care personally. Why? Once she has no ownership? But isn't intimacy as such also a sort of ownership even though intimacy does not reclaim ownership? Intimacy operates outside hierarchies and ownership (as we normally see it) is by essence hierarchical: mine, therefore not yours.

Of course, the cleaner could also be a bourgeois woman who cleans her OWN house. But this is not how I see it. The cleaning bourgeois woman, when cleaning, always looks at the surroundings with virtual foreign eyes: how THEY (the coming visitors) will see MY place, is the name of the game. This virtual foreignness of the bourgeois woman, in fact, also destroys intimacy, which the cleaner in the video in my view has. No, she is not a bourgeois woman. She is too modest in her habitus, too intimate in her actions for that role.

The video carefully focuses on the way the woman contemplates her surroundings with her gaze and actions, with her touch. Normally in philosophy we can separate two major genres of perception. On the one hand the idea of theoretical contemplation is to see the object as it really is. On the other hand in technological or practical orientation we see objects as possible targets of manipulation. But how does a cleaner see the objects as they are portrayed in the video?

From the point of view of manipulation a cleaner sees dirt. After all, it is dirt that is manipulated (away) in the process of cleaning. This is not the case here, however. Instead, the woman in the video reminds me of the Marxian theory of alienation (Entfremdung in German). The worker, the proletariat, never sees the end product to whose manufacture he or she contributes. The worker is there only for a minuscule function in the assembly line. Therefore he or she is alienated from the (whole) work process.

In a bit analogical way, I see the video as ALIENATED INTIMACY (or intimacy alienated). The surroundings are for the cleaner at the same time intimate and foreign, the objects something to be touched and handled in an interested but at the same time disinterested way. The surrounding world is familiarized in the video, but at the same time disfamiliarized.

To be intimate and at the same time being alienated. This seems to me her destiny.»

(Antti Kukkonen)