Photographic techniques were instrumental in spawning the efficient industrial labourer of the early twentieth century: Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, prominent advocates of scientific management, captured the movements of workers performing their tasks to determine and instruct the workforce on the “paths of least waste”. Their chronocyclegraphs, based on the chronophotographic techniques developed by Etienne-Jules Marey, would abstract movement from the individual body by capturing the working processes as light patterns, which were then materialised as instructional wire models.
In The Infernal Dream of Mutt and Jeff, Zoe Beloff critically reflects on the utopian, modern project of early capitalism and image technologies to spawn “productive bodies” as commodities in Taylor’s assembly line. Two archival films, Motion Studies Application, a short industrial film in which a male voice instructs a female worker, and Folie à Deux, a clinical film that documents the behavioural deviations of a mother and a daughter diagnosed with a contagious psychosis, form part of her installation. Juxtaposing this footage with a third film which re-stages the historical film sets, Beloff reflects on the capitalist implications of the moving image at the time of cinema's emergence as the medium of mass entertainment and “psychosocial control”. In demonstrating how these images “wire” and “organise” the body and the mind, Beloff reveals the power of photographic images as “utopian objects with real consequences”.
Download a PDF of the accompanying book: zoebeloff.com/InfernalDreamWeb.pdf
More by Zoe Beloff: zoebeloff.com