In the past ten years the artistic practice of Sanela Jahić has been through ongoing but constantly upgrading phases that are mostly dedicated to the relationship between human and machine. Among other things she has also conveyed into the close dissection of the background of (contemporary) industrial production in order to find profound answers to questions of the ethics of the labour process and the value of labour. Nowadays, beside the immense number of unemployed, ever more people who are fully employed (often for more than eight hours per day or more than one third of their time available) but they, however, earn so little that they still live on the margins of society. Therefore the artist critically analyses (almost generic) imperatives for greater efficiency and ever more widespread and mainstream discourse about workers’ salaries being too high to be competitive with the areas where the ruthless exploitation of the labour force is allowed and labour legislation completely deregulated; the exploitation is usually conducted by the very same companies that are closing the factories in the regulated areas of the West.
The video in two acts, entitled The Factory (2013) showcases conversations among the workers on the one hand, and interview with the owner of the company on the other hand. The artist explicitly points out their attitude towards the machine and labour. While the owner has almost intimate, almost love relationship with his machines and refers to the hard labour in a very romantic way, the workers appear much more ambivalent and reserved on that topic. However, majority of the workers did not want to speak for the camera. So one thing is clear: the intentions, expectations and ambitions of the owner of the company and employees on the other side are completely inadequate and (almost) diametrically opposite. With her recent works Jahić thus extremely effectively captures the reality of the time. The interviews with the workers and with the owner of the company show the individuality, lack of compassion and ever-larger social divide. And besides, the stratification is taking place in the area with long tradition of social egalitarianism.
© Miha Colner, December 2016