Embodiment

Alexandra, Jønsson, Accumulative Care, body map detail, felt body parts (2018.)

Through my PhD research questions of embodiment have become a central theme in my practice. I draw on existing intersectional feminist practices that take labour, care, and maintenance as social and political processes that evolve around the body as site.

The data industry is one of the fasted growing industries, yet, very few accounts of the digital are contextualised in relation to bodies beyond the consumer subject. How can the capitalist ecologies that structure the daily interactions with new technologies be examined, when often, they are intangible to the individual? By taking a practice-based approach to how we ‘do’ data with bodies in the context of everyday life, the increasing demand for producing and accumulating data can be seen in direct relation to bodies that labour as a part of the digital economy. Where does the body begin and end, if data produced from the taps of the fingers travels to become profit? Where does the economy begin and end, if the engagement with digital technologies settle in your body as ‘mouse hand’, stiff neck, or lower back pain, does such ergonomic hardware count as a part of the body? Or if low pay, precarity and lack of rights produces insomnia, worry and depression, is the economy colonising your body ecology? In my research I explore how the field of embodiment can facilitate addressing such questions  by giving language to the way that bodies come into being through material, technical and emotional relations, which can sometimes be experienced, sensed, felt, or used. More specifically, the research seeks to understand how such relations are being defined by current forms of platform and surveillance capitalism.

Accumulative Care”is an ongoing research project that explore how feminist and care-informed artistic methods offer new ways to conceptualise the relationship between bodies and technologies. The project includes a body mapping process and care installation through which the concepts of social and bodily risk associated with new forms of digital labour can be given both a platform. The project intervenes into the pervasive technocratic discourses around the digital, where stories of technical utility and novelty of the digital product omit the exploitative chains of production that range from data producing child gamers, prosumers, influencers, and online sex workers, content moderators, data entry workers, metal miners, and hardware assembly workers. Using the format of care as the basis for a collective care installation, the artistic work presents digital labour as a question of mental labour which frames the viewer’s body. The installation Accumulative Care creates a space where the collective experiences of digital workers come to the fore in a series of audio body relaxation created from individual testimonies, that identify the body parts in which the pressure, stress, or pain of digital work is experienced.

Life Drawing the Attention Theft” (2018-2019) is an drawing class hosted by Deptford Drawing Collectives programme. The project invites the regular drawers to take a new starting point for drawing, by exploring how smartphone usage and the associated production of digital data choreograph the body as working. The drawing class is based on a custom-made postures series which I created from images that people donated of themselves engaging with different platforms, from surfing the internet, using social media, music, period and dieting apps, and gaming. These behaviours all produce a financial surplus value in terms of being quantifiable in data, that corporations can trade in or use for the making of new digital produce. The drawing class proposes to see the bodily movements of typing, tapping, starring, and slouching as actions of unpaid labour, because in the digital economy, they present a valuable resources for the digital platforms that capture, analyse and model user generated content. And while the bodily movements of tapping, typing, and scrolling are often small and repetitive, the whole attention of a body is often subsumed to the engagement with digital processes. This offer a new starting point for drawing practice, where the specific relations between strained hands and fingers, starring eyes, and slouched back becomes the basis for structuring the movement lines, weight, and distribution of energy in the drawing.

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