superconductr is an artistic research project into conditions of on-demand labour distributed through digital platforms.

superconductr’s work involves interventions that utilise the functionalities of existing digital labour platforms, participation in activism for precarious labour rights, and theoretical investigations.

superconductr is an artistic research project into conditions of on-demand labour distributed through digital platforms.

superconductr’s work involves interventions that utilise the functionalities of existing digital labour platforms, participation in activism for precarious labour rights, and theoretical investigations.

The name superconductr refers to Michel Foucault’s description of power as the conduct of conduct, which here also takes into account conduction as the transmission, control and mining of data streams in networks that facilitate the capture and extraction of human labour power.

superconductr is a project by artist Matthias Kispert.

For Workers leaving the cloud factory, superconductr commissioned workers on the clickwork websites Amazon Mechanical Turk and Microworkers to film themselves leaving the place where they work. The project is motivated by the question of how to represent a workforce that is dispersed and atomised, humans who are working at their data machines, whose labour can be mobilised with a few lines of code coming from a requester.

The videos that have been purchased show workers in a range of settings—living rooms, bed rooms, kitchens, offices, shopping centres—and even with a number of videos playing simultaneously, the sound track is eerily empty. Chairs creak, fans spin, footsteps, doors open and close—the kinds of sounds one notices when alone. The cloud factory is everywhere and nowhere at the same time, extending into a time and space where the boundaries between work and life have collapsed.

Capitalism doesn’t love me consists of two ASMR videos which contain readings of rejection emails from Fiverr and Amazon Mechanical Turk received by superconductr in the process of testing out methods of artistic intervention on these digital labour platforms. The videos have been custom-made by sellers on Fiverr for a payment of US$5 each.

ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) videos are an internet subculture of videos that are intended to induce a spine-tingling sensation in the viewer, usually through sounds and performances that signify intimacy. ASMR videos are mostly created by enthusiasts who contribute to this subculture without expectation of financial gain. ASMR videos could be seen as one aspect of a culture of self-care and healing which has grown in prominence as a necessary corollary of neoliberal economics, as a tonic to help soothe the wounds inflicted by neoliberal competition and its main affective disorder: anxiety.

The online freelancer platform Fiverr declared 2018 to be The Year of Do. Do something, sell something, promote the crap out of it, hustle, use your power to get shit done, be a Doer. But what if you just want to do nothing, even when everything has a price? What is the price of nothing? There are frequent appearances of sellers on Fiverr who propose to do nothing for US$5. These offers function as acts of non-participation in the credo of compulsory entrepreneurial productivity proclaimed by the company. superconductr has contacted the sellers of these gigs, sellers who proposed to do nothing and get paid for it. These sellers were asked, for a payment of US$5 each, to create a short video in which they film something that represents nothingness for them, while reading out the text that they had posted with their offer.

Keep your promises is a series of videos that superconductr have created to support campaigns by precarious workers for better rights and conditions. At a time when traditional labour unions have been unable or unwilling to organise workers who are in precarious conditions due to factors including increased outsourcing of labour that previously used to be managed in-house, the appearance of digital platforms for distributing work on an on-demand basis, increased use of freelancing arrangements instead of regular employment, and a general drift towards atomisation and precarisation of workers, new unions like the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) are developing innovative solutions that help impose a negative demand on the rising supply levels in the market for exploitative employment practices. superconductr support this work.

For Workers laughing alone for money, workers on the platform Microworkers have been asked to record themselves laughing for approximately one minute for a payment of US$1. The title is a play on the meme Women laughing alone with salad, which first appeared on feminist blog The Hairpin, and which illustrates how gender stereotypes are among the coercive elements that are mobilised in the dissemination of the neoliberal imperative for self-optimisation and commodification. Approaching this imperative from a different direction, Workers laughing alone for money deals with the affective labour involved in the effort of disciplining and motivating oneself, an effort that is particularly needed and at the same time more daunting when one works alone, separate from others, like many of the workers on Microworkers do. What does one do when dystopia sets in while working alone at one’s computer? Erupt in a spontaneous and desolate burst of lonely laughter?

Fiverr is an online freelancer platform where workers offer ‘gigs’—small jobs to be completed remotely, ranging from design services to long-distance spiritual healing—for a fee of five US dollars or multiples thereof. Work hard dream big began as a gig posted on Fiverr by superconductr, which offers the labour of doing nothing for 23 minutes and 2 seconds for a payment of US$5. This duration was calculated by working out net earnings after Fiverr and PayPal fees, and then dividing these by the minimum wage in the place where superconductr is based. The gig also comes with a number of free extras. However, two days after being posted, the offer was deactivated by the platform. To commemorate its disappearance from public view, and to support the project’s status as a work of art, an oil painting of the gig was commissioned from Meisheng Oil Painting Manufacture Co. in Xiamen, China for US$155.

Artist website: http://www.superconductr.org/

“Workers leaving the cloud factory” (2017), superconductr
“Capitalism doesn’t love me”, superconductr
“Keep your promises”, superconductr