We all agree that unpaid work sucks. Long before the moment in which “the factory turned into office, (and office turned into home)”,1 the reproduction of work has been accompanied by the perpetuation of rampant injustice and exploitation – and this is especially prevalent today, in the era of self-employment and immaterial labour in the cultural sector as in many others. Yet, the forms of exploitation (self-)imposed on workers under the pretence of the contemporary economy of presence, the sphere of the 24/7 workday, have altered the classification of labour that we are required to perform, and, accordingly, the form that (the act of/to) strike can take to function within it. In fact, the traditional history of the workers’ struggle of the last century cannot be of much help in the post-Fordist context, when the practice of strike as “not-work” ceased to be effective. What kind of resistance and strategic withdrawal is available in the post-industrial, knowledge-based economy, when the possibility of strike as absence is no longer an option? How can we avoid the trap of counteracting high performance with strategies that become modes of high performance themselves? What is at stake when we refuse to work, and what roles do the notions of pleasure, love and commitment play in our daily acceptance of working? In other words: why do we say yes to the job in the first place? Maybe the more appropriate question to ask ourselves is not how can we politely say no to unpaid labour, but more precisely: How can we politely say no, while secretly performing our radical and exuberant yes?
In an attempt to resist the seductions of self-indulgence the programme of this chapter was composed of workshops, as a propaedeutic and collective exercise in preparation for Exhaustion and Exuberance that took place on Friday, 14 April.
• Behaviour as Strike: The Practice of “Presencelessness”, workshop with Ambra Pittoni & Paul-Flavien Enriquez-Sarano
• Is It Love? reading group with Brian Kuan Wood
• Balance, performance by Martina Mächler