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When economists and politicians talk about bringing industrial production back to America, it’s a response to real economic problems: particularly, a blighted Midwest region, the former heart of America’s postwar boom, now a string of ghost towns. If the factories come back, they would bring back jobs and money, that is true – but what makes it so compelling as a subject of economic policy is what else is promised: that social dynamics, family relationships, political mechanisms, everything will work properly again, as it was intended, as we all desire.
The Machinist’s Lament speculates on re-industrialization, retaining the magical thinking that drives such unrealistic policy. It imagines a non-specific future populated by female factory workers. Here, alienation is implicit in putting on a welder’s mask – a separation between performer and viewer, past and present, what is possible and unattainable fantasy. Footage was shot in Ohio, part of the Midwestern Rust Belt region. Voice-over text sources include industrial manuals, Monique Wittig’s Les Guérillères, and Adorno’s Minima Moralia.

Jen Liu, born in 1976 in Smithtown, New York, is a visual artist working in performance, video, painting, and installation. She has presented work at, among others, the Shanghai Biennial, Liverpool Biennial, Aspen Museum of Art, Royal Academy and ICA in London, Issue Project Room, New York, and Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna.

Contact: info@upstreamgallery.nl, www.upstreamgallery.nl
Courtesy: the artist and Upstream Gallery, Amsterdam
Format: Single-channel video installation, Sound, Colour & black/white
Running time: 18 min
Language: English

Funded by:

  • Logo Minister of State for Culture and the Media
  • Logo des Programms NeuStart Kultur