Benj Gerdes is an artist, writer, and organizer working in film, video, and other public formats, individually as well as collaboratively. He is interested in intersections of radical politics, knowledge production, and popular imagination. His individual and collaborative work focuses on the affective and social consequences of economic and state regimes through historical research, dialogue, and participatory or aleatory formalizations. His work has been exhibited and screened at venues including the Centre Pompidou, National Gallery of Art, New Museum, REDCAT Gallery, Rotterdam International Film Festival, and the Tate Modern. Writings have been published in October, The Journal of Aesthetics + Protest, Incite! and Rethinking Marxism. Based in Brooklyn, NY, he is Assistant Professor of Media Arts at Long Island University – Post.
How’s it Co-Working Out For You? Labor, Social Media, and Why We Don’t Organize
As a new component of a multi-disciplinary artistic practice, I have recently begun using stand-up comedy to try to stage and explore sites of complicity, contradiction, and apathy with regard to topics like social media and cultural production. Last fall, I was invited by the artist Simon Leung to participate in a theatrical performance called “Actions!” at the Kitchen, primarily focusing on the MoMA staff strike in 2000. Simon invited a range of artists and performers to contribute to this project, focusing on fellow travelers whose work examined questions of labor in some form. I wrote and performed a bad stand-up comedy routine about technology and social relations in New York circa the year 2000, at moments even as if it was still 2000, to complicate an otherwise more earnest set of contributions. For Digital Labor… I would use a stand up act to provide a subjective and irreverent exploration of questions raised by the conference, particularly around the present possibilities for labor organizing amidst widespread disinterest in certain fields of production. The routine would indicate displeasure at my demographic for accepting certain terms and conditions for laboring and the contemporary creation of value, while at the same time allowing that discussion to implicate my own hypocrisy and fatigue in relationship to the development of actually existing viable alternatives. Within this experimental framework, I hope to focus on new inflections of inequality through the lens of gender, race, and class, as well as an intimate relationship between creative industries, precarity, and privilege. This is admittedly more descriptive of a format than specific topical content to be developed, but the intent—to access certain “uncomfortable” questions in a different manner—should be clear. This presentation would be theoretically-informed but appropriate for a lay audience.