Arbeit Kino (Work Cinema) is an exhibition of film stills from 100 years of cinema history. Film stills which not only record various worlds of work and work processes but also their historical development. Arbeit Kino – like cuttings from an open encyclopaedia from the world of film which from the beginning has always maintained close affinities to manual and mental, artistic and performance, formal and informal work.
There is hardly another medium which has examined the wide range of existing of work and working conditions as consistently as the cinema. There is hardly another medium which has shown work as vividly and realistically as film. Realistic without shying away from the enormous production costs necessary to show on a large scale the workings of societies based on division of labour. Whether condensed like a parable or soberly documentary, existentially heightened or socially critical – work is written into the historical machinery of the cinema in a wide variety of ways.
The Arbeit Kino range of film stills stretches from the early cinema of Sergei Eisenstein and Fritz Lang to Hollywood and auteur cinema and to independent local film productions of recent decades. The arrangement of the stills shows not only the most varied forms of work but, in the wide spectrum of different film formats, reflects the continual expansion of the concept of work itself. Along the same lines as this, the content stretches from manual labour to immaterial services, from production line capitalism to the increasingly deregulated globalised economy.
In the history of film it did not take long until a critical and sometimes also ironic distance joined the "mere" depiction of exploited masses. Such as when Charlie Chaplin counters the individual (dys)function in the cogs of industrial capitalism with biting ridicule (Modern Times); or when in Paul Schrader's Blue Collar an Afro-American factory worker flings all his pent-up frustration in the face of his foreman. In contrast to the image of the white male worker, gender ratios and ethnic differences are often enough in the background. One reason more for calling to mind the work of women office cleaners (such as in Nightcleaners) or what seem like atavistic conditions in Indian sweatshops (Megacities). In Arbeit Kino it is always about the relationship of working subjects to their surroundings – about interventions and transformations which they undertake there, even if it means the fastest possible exit from the executive floor, as in The Hudsucker Proxy.
In one of their first films in 1895 the Lumière brothers filmed factory workers leaving a factory. More than 100 years later the working population still does not seem to have arrived in a freer world.
With special thanks to all those who have lent items to the exhibition and copyright owners who have supported this project, especially the Austrian Film Museum (Vienna), Film Archive Austria (Vienna), the Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek (Berlin), Stadtkino Verleih (Vienna), Polyfilm Verleih (Vienna), Lotus Film (Vienna), the Generali Foundation (Vienna), Concorde Home Entertainment (Munich) and the Trondheim Film Society.
During the course of the project every attempt was made to contact copyright owners to ask permission to reproduce works. If in some cases these attempts were unsuccessful, we ask for your understanding – or please contact us.