In Front of the Factory. Cinematic Spaces of Labour

Conference, 26-27 May 2016, Berlin, Germany

“Most narrative films take place in that part of life where work has been left behind.” Harun Farocki’s condemnation of cinema’s unwillingness to represent labour finds echoes in present-day political discussions about the struggles and persistent invisibility of labour in public space. Undocumented labour, the weakening of union organizing, and the decoupling of work from physical space in the era of the Internet, are phenomena that have irreversibly altered everyday life. 

At the same time, a new vocabulary capturing the expansions of labour – affective labour, care work, women’s work, immaterial and precarious labour – has made it possible to deepen our understanding of what ought to be considered as labour and where this labour happens. In the same vein, a growing number of filmmakers are showing a commitment to render the spaces where work takes place today visible again. Despite arguments to the contrary, film and the moving image have always been concerned with the processes of labour, including the work of cinema itself. If film theorists such as Jean Louis Comolli chastised cinema’s distancing approach to spaces of labour, it could be argued that they had in mind a limited notion of the workspace. In other words, whilst the space in front of the factory has enjoyed relatively little screen time in film’s history, spaces of labour hold an enduring relationship with the medium. 

This conference will tackle the historically shifting relationship between cinema and the representation of labour spaces and will reflect on the renewed attention to the workspace in today’s art cinema and documentary production.


Saima Akhtar
Andreas Bunte
Pedro Costa
Mona Damluji
Daniel Eisenberg
Alex Gerbaulet
Mantas Kvedaravicius
Britta Lange
Ewa Mazierska
Elena Pollacchi
Karl Schoonover

Time: 26-27 May 2016
Venue: ICI Berlin
In English

Organised by Saima Akhtar, Rosa Barotsi, Clio Nicastro

This event is a cooperation between ICI Berlin, Forum Transregionale Studien, Irmgard Coninx Stiftung, ACUD Kino, and re:work.