Robots Don't Buy Motor Cars
Automation vs. autonomy: Defining power and solidarity within systems of production & networks of activism
Central to our global consumer culture of abundance, leisure and prosperity lies the influence of American industrialist Henry Ford, whose system of standardised mass production, Fordism, helped to define an American brand of industrial efficiency by refining routine and intensifying labour to promote production. Market demand as the result not the driving force behind the assembly line ensured production into a certain kind of planned obsolescence, a drive which continues to be unquestioned by consumers as we pile up objects we work to produce, purchase and then abandon. After all, as Ford remarked when resisting further automation of his factory, ‘robots don’t buy motor cars’.
The themes emerging from American Export artist, Jen Liu’s work (health, economics, and social industrial and insurgent management of female labour), have been instrumental in identifying the speakers for this event, bringing into more recent context the notion of an exported American efficiency, its management and the networks of solidarity that emerge.
This event invites each speaker to offer a completely unique perspective and as a result, offers a space for their respective research to broaden our understanding on the intersection of gender, labour migration and activism, and where these themes point to today.
Dr Sundari Anitha (Reader, School of Social and Political Sciences at The University of Lincoln) and Professor Ruth Pearson (Emeritus Professor of Development Studies at The University of Leeds, former Chair in Women and Development at the Institute for Social Sciences in The Hague and former MA Director in Development Studies at UEA). Anitha and Pearson’s recent work looks at South Asian women’s contribution to workers rights in the UK . They are co-authors of Striking Women: Struggles and Strategies of South Asian Women Workers from Grunwick to Gate Gourmet, which explores the history behind the migration of two particular diaspora of South Asian women to the UK and how this history reveals the gendered, classed and racialised inclusion of these groups in the labour market. https://www.striking-women.org/
Professor Ricardo Dominguez is an associate professor in the visual arts department UC San Diego, a Society for the Humanities Fellow, Cornell University (2017-18), Rockefeller Arts & Humanities Fellow, Italy (2018) and a principal investigator at Qualcomm Institute/California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology. He is a co-founder of The Electronic Disturbance Theater, a group who developed virtual sit-in technologies in solidarity with the Zapatistas communities in Chiapas, Mexico, in 1998. Dominguez developed his recent Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0/b.a.n.g. lab project titled the Transborder Immigrant Tool (a GPS cell phone safety net tool for crossing the Mexico/U.S. border) with Brett Stalbaum, Micha Cárdenas, Amy Sara Carroll, and Elle Mehrmand (https://tbt.tome.press/). The project was the winner of the Transnational Communities Award (2008), an award funded by Cultural Contact, Endowment for Culture Mexico–U.S. and handed out by the U.S. Embassy in Mexico. Along with artists Diane Ludin, Nina Waisman, and Amy Sara Carroll, Dominguez is also a cofounder of *particle group*, the creator of an art project about nanotoxicology titled Particles of Interest: Tales of the Matter Market. http://www.thing.net/~rdom/
Visual artist, Jen Liu whose practice includes video, performance and painting which focuses on the topics of economy, labour’s intersection with national identity and gender formation, and the re-imagining of archival artefacts and industrial objects. The development and inclusion of minor stories in her work, such as safety tutorials, meat manufacture, and small objects of feminised hygiene - reveal the nuances of the major stories of globalisation and the interlocking systems of the exploitation of female labour. http://jenliu.info/
Each speaker will deliver a 45 minute presentation which will be followed by a screening of Jen Liu’s work, Pink Slime Caesar Shift and a panel discussion moderated by Mariam Zulfiqar, Deputy Director and Chief Curator of UP Projects. Zulfiqar's touring exhibition Changing Places, for Film and Video Umbrella was presented during the 70th anniversary of Indian independence. The show explored the legacy of industrialisation from the perspective of South Asia and was presented at sites of historic significance across England.
Robots Don’t Buy Motor Cars is the opening event for American Export a programme of workshops, talks, film, performance and visual art at The University of Westminster and sites across Birmingham city centre exploring the ubiquity of American culture via post colonial and transatlantic prisms. Featuring new work by artists Jen Liu, Hetain Patel, Emma Smith and Tito & Tita, American Export highlights the impact of American cultural and economic ideas on Britain, China and the Philippines.