Project and text by Parsons & Charlesworth, whose installation Catalog for the Post-Human is part of the 17th International Architecture Exhibition titled How will we live together? The exhibition has been curated by Hashim Sarkis and organized by La Biennale di Venezia.
The number of flexible or “contingent” workers without secure full-time jobs and accompanying benefits, has risen dramatically since 2005 to the extent that they form over 40% of the US workforce.1 This period has also seen the continued emergence of a “fourth industrial revolution” in which technology companies, besides developing robotics and AI, have learned to harvest and monetize data such that human performance metrics can be calibrated in real time. These forces are already creating precarious and unjust working conditions, and are portentous of a future where contingent workers may be forced to enhance themselves with technologies to survive work governed by observational tools and control mechanisms. Borrowing methodologies from installation art and speculative design, and using the spatial typology of the trade fair booth, Catalog for the Post-Human is a collection of sculptural works and animations that illustrate this potential future, and prompts a critique of its ethics.
About the Installation
The installation invites visitors into an immersive space that mixes the familiar design language of a commercial trade fair, with an unfamiliar collection of objects relating to the future of work, productivity labor and the body.
Catalog for the Post-Human extends an ongoing body of research and design outcomes that began in 2014, the last iteration of which manifested as a vending machine with interactive interface, for the Designs for Different Futures exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2019) and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis (2020).
Imagining a future where success depends upon our ability to be permanently cognitively sharp, quantifying ourselves with data, and able to work the long and irregular hours assigned by algorithm-led corporations, Catalog for the Post-Human provides tools to help workers cope with circumstances in which their bodies may be pushed to the limit. Adjust your circadian rhythms to your work schedule. Dial up the right cognitive state for your next gig using smart drugs. Safeguard your microbiome with soil-based probiotic lollipops or absorb vitamins intravenously while you work.
Using the fictional commercial environment as a method of engagement, the project aims to provoke conversations about the ethical and social dimensions of our technologically mediated futures.
The installation uses the Abstracta exhibition system to display four product ranges addressing different needs of the contingent worker of the near future.
Cognitive Management-tools to tune your brain’s efficiency.
– Morning Ritual: a kit for microdosing.
– NootDial: a dispenser for nootropic pharmaceuticals.
Expedited Recovery-tools that help you adjust your circadian rhythm to match your economic rhythm.
– SleepSnackers: tools for enhanced short-term napping.
– RemWake: a wearable alarm that wakes you at your most alert.
Optimized Wellness-tools to help you maintain hydration and a healthy gut.
– Mycopops: probiotic lollipops
– IV Apparel: an IV jacket for administering your own IV on the move.
Enhanced Productivity-tools to help you maintain productivity and income generation.
– ClickbaitWear: wearable advertising clothing for a second income stream.
– StressWatch: a device for measuring your stress levels via a saliva cortisol test.
Sleep smarter and expedite your recovery with SleepSnackers™. Algorithms wait for no-one. Your revenue stream depends on aligning your sleep cycle with your work cycle, but how? SleepSnacker’s collection of smart sleep aids hack your circadian rhythm, coercing your body into sleeping and waking in line with your gigs. The patented arterial temperature regulators emulate the natural changes that occur in a 24 hour circadian rhythm, cooling your body to shorten sleep-latency and promote NREM sleep, or warming you to stimulate wakefulness. Sleep snacking is the new normal. Recover restored with SleepSnackers™.
SleepSnacker Headwear™ is SleepSnacker’s flagship product. The Headwear’s arterial temperature regulator sits directly over the brain stem-the part of the brain that regulates body temperature. Applying heat or cold to this area translates the sensation throughout your body and the cushioned pads and collar-shaped design help make napping on the go fast and comfortable. Select left or right sided versions.
Immediate therapy. No appointment necessary.
Intravenous infusions improve vitamin absorption by up to 50% over oral ingestion. But when your task manager is in the red, where do you find the time? IV Apparel™ frees you up to keep working while your IV is administered. The transparent hooded vest is a fully mobile gravity feed IV system that keeps your body stocked with essential nutrients, electrolytes, vitamins and antioxidants, while you ace your multi-tasking.
Fine tune your sleep cycles and wake at your most alert with RemWake™.
Research shows waking during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is the key to post-rest alertness. Whether you have the luxury of a full night’s sleep or are looking to maximize your power-napping, RemWake™ ensures you’re ready for action. Advanced electrooculography (EOG) records voltage across the eye to sense REM sleep. Dial in the recovery you can afford before your next gig and RemWake™ brings you round during your last REM cycle with a burst of smelling salts guaranteed to provide a boost of strength, explosive energy, and razor-sharp focus. Swap your alarm clock for an alert clock. Use RemWake™, the ultimate sleep management tool.
Work up to-but not over your cortisol limit with the StressWatch™. In today’s intense gig-worksphere the pressure of our multi-channel agendas can easily get the better of us. Our friend cortisol–the fight-or-flight hormone–becomes our foe when chronic low-level stress keeps the adrenal gland pumping. StressWatch™ is your early warning system, enabling on-the-go observation and management of cortisol levels through a simple saliva test. Learn how far you can push yourself with StressWatch™.
1. Elaine Pofeldt, “Shocker: 40% of Workers Now Have ‘Contingent’ Jobs, Says U.S. Government,” Forbes, May 25, 2015, https://www.forbes.com/sites/elainepofeldt/2015/05/25/shocker-40-of-workers-now-have-contingent-jobs-says-u-s-government/?sh=4989912014be. ↵
For more information about all the objects, please visit the project website cftph.work.
Supporters and Sponsors
Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts
Consort Display Group (Abstracta system and printing)
Parsons & Charlesworth are collaborative artists focusing on the objects and habits of humankind. Their inventive sculptural practice relies upon creating objects that allow us to examine our future selves and perhaps navigate better. Utilizing sculpture, objects, narrative writing and photography, their work addresses key social, ecological and technological challenges of our time, including climate change and the future of work. Recent commissions include the exhibition Designs for Different Futures at the Walker Art Center and the Venice Architecture Biennale at the Central Pavilion. They began collaborating in 2010 after relocating to Chicago from the UK. They both teach at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
www.parsonscharlesworth.com | @pandcstudio | @parsonscharlesworth