Digital Labor

Soyoung Yoon


Soyoung Yoon is Assistant Professor of Art History and Program Coordinator of Visual Studies at Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts, The New School. She is also a Faculty of Critical Theory at the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program [ISP]. Yoon received her doctoral degree from Stanford University. She has published in Grey Room, Millennium Film Journal, Film Quarterly, Shifters, among other periodicals and books. Yoon is at work on two book projects around the re-definition of the status of the “document,” its claims to to the real, in the post-war period: Camera Obtrusa, a project on the rise of cinéma vérité and the critique of the hermeneutics of the self amidst the struggles for decolonization; and Miss Vietnam, a project on feminist mediation, which reframes technological reproducibility via the framework of reproductive labor, focusing on the paradigmatic shift from photography to video. Research and teaching topics include: modern & contemporary art; art & labor; photography, film and media theory; Marxism, critical theory and political philosophy; feminism and queer theory.

A Post-Production Poetics of Sleep
How does the criterion of productivity effect the representation of the human body? What is a productive body? How has it changed throughout history, and how are the effects of this change rendered visible in artistic production, especially in aesthetic representations of the human body? How does the category of the productive body - or unproductive body - change our approach to questions of corporeality, subjectivity, identity? According to Anson Rabinbach’s The Human Motor: Energy, Fatigue, and the Origins of Modernity, it is the metaphor of the “human motor,” based especially on theories of thermodynamics, which is crucial for the constitution of productive bodies at end of the nineteenth century. As we posit the possible irrelevancy of the “human motor” for present modes of production, I also ask how does the transformation - and continuation - of this model effect the representation of bodies, identities, and/or subjectivities. Addressing particular challenges to the productive body, I will point to specific case studies of what I would call a “post-production poetics of sleep” within the context of what Jonathan Crary has recently described as our age of 24/7 capitalism - the intensification of capitalist exploitation of surplus value as it is articulated in the escalation of the various erosions of sleep through intensified forms of discipline and control, the new demands of productivity that corresponds to a new duration of work and consumption, “a generalized inscription of human life into a duration without breaks, defined by a principle of continuous functioning.” The productive body as the always active body, the body that does not need to sleep.

24/7 Work
Sat, November 15
10:00 AM - 12:30 PM