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.