“Hello, Today you have day off.” A friendly text message at first, but what could be an invitation to spend the day joyfully,
is a disaster for the recipients: workers with zero-hour contracts. The artist Jeremy Deller confronted the audience at his
exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 2015 with the harsh conditions of 19th century workers as well as with controversial
current working practices in a playful setting. Spectators were invited to explore ambient sounds from factories on a gleaming
blue and chrome vintage jukebox, or to discover contemporary productivity devices, such as Motorola’s WT4000, which are strikingly
reminiscent of game interfaces.
Playing with technology can be a very fruitful technique for artists, and art history brings some examples of it to the surface
of cultural production. Over the last decades, artists use the purposelessness (“Zweckfreiheit”) of game and apply it as a
concept on contemporary technology. The results can be hilarious, intriguing, breath-taking, overwhelming, scary. As works
of art, however, they have one thing in common: they promote aesthetic added value while challenging technology in the form
of production and products, infrastructure, service, etc.
The proposed contribution to the panel “Challenging Power through Playing with Technology” will be a categorization of works
of art in the 20th centuries, such as Niki de Saint Phalle’s “Golem” (1972) and Jean Tinguely’s “Carnival Fountain” (“Fasnachts-Brunnen”,
1975–1977), and will use these categories to gain a deeper understanding of the play of contemporary artists with technology.
The paper follows the assumption that the presented excerpt from contemporary works of art enables an analysis of the blurring
boundaries between work and leisure (such as through gamification or shifting the age limit, e.g. musical.ly/TikTok) in the
context of the ubiquitous Attention Economy.