A Spectre is Haunting Galtham...

On exhibition at Milan Salone 2013

On exhibition at Milan Salone 2013

On exhibition at Milan Salone 2013

On exhibition at Milan Salone 2013
The Mercenary Cubiclists are the Avatars of Galtham, trapped in an exploitative loop enabled by the unstoppable advance of networking technology, a shifting geo-political landscape and subversive labour-play.

Around the world in the new Chinese eco-city of Desert Heaven the dream of western capitalism, of limitless and guiltless abundance has been achieved - 'all the work with none of the workers' - but at great cost to Galtham's residents.

Galtham was once a proud mining town, but the changing nature of labour and resources left it behind. With the mines closed and with no transferable skills or capital, the residents found they only had the resource of themselves and time with which to try and eek out a living in the digital economy.

This human resource in labour-potential proved invaluable to Desert Heaven: Looking for a way to offset their labour and environmental footprint, they turned to Galtham. They offered them free access to resources and a new type of employment infrastructure to support the ailing community.

With the world fully automated and uploaded, the Avatars of Galtham perform the last job left to humans - translating the world for computers.

Galtham is riddled with the cables connecting the devices and their slouching Avatars to their hubs as they spend every waking moment tagging the endless stream of images and videos on their screens. In return for this work and through their hubs they can access the water, heat and light unused by their Citizen counterparts in Desert Heaven. Each Avatar is a shadow of a Citizen, only able to consume what the Citizen has left unused and only with enough game points to do so.

They spend every waking moment cowed over their game devices In return for points that grant them access to their resources and badges of achievement.

That spectre has begun to haunt us already.

In much the same way as the collateral human cost of mass consumption and manufacturing has begun to change the way we consume and the questions we have to ask before we produce, the human collateral of digital labour is real but relatively unseen. Simply by using the internet, sharing information and creating content we willingly and excitedly perform labour for services that monetise that labour for only simplistic, visceral rewards that subvert our sense of self and value.

More directly, the growing number of services that provide anonymous digital freelancers for hire circumscribe not only labour and tax laws but also the connections that should exist in a labour process. Through the anonymity available in these systems, colossal alienation is possible, allowing opportunity for incredible and direct exploitation.

The Mercenary Cubiclists are the extreme result of this geo-political, technological and capitalistic shift. They exist at the point where the dialectic between technology and digital capitalism exists. They exist as the spectre that haunts us...

Mercenary Cubiclists was created for and supported by Z33: House For Contemporary Art's Design Beyond Production exhibition for Ventura Lambarte 2013 at the Milan Design Salon and exhibition at Z33
Computer Illustrations by Ferry Gouw

Additional reading:
Sarah O'Connor - Amazon Unpacked
Trebor Scholz - Digital Labour: The Internet as Playground and Factory
Jaron Lanier - Who Owns The Future?
Justin McGuirck - The Post-Spectacular Economy
Sleep Dealer

06.2017 – How Will We Work? Vienna
01.2015 – Transmediale, Berlin
05.2013 - 10.2013 – Design Beyond Production, Z33, Hasselt, Belgium
05.2013 – Design Beyond Production, Milan Design Salone, Milan

01.2015 – Berlin Artlink.
01.2015 – Lo/Rez.
09.2013 – VICE: Creators Project
05.2013 – BDOnline
05.2013 – Disegno

Last updated: 05.2020