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From New Babylon to Rotterdam Harbour

The Netherlands is, arguably, a testing ground where the future of labor has been and continues to be reimagined. The work of architect and artist Constant Nieuwenhuys has been a particular trigger for this conversation. In Constant’s New Babylon (1956–74)—an architectural paradigm of free space and leisure afforded by automation—society devotes its energy to creativity and play, and individuals can design their own environments. And yet, as Constant’s oeuvre evolved, his optimistic vision on the possibilities and pleasures of automated labor gradually gave way to a more conflicted perspective. Violence would not be eradicated by the new technological order, mobilized to satisfy society’s immediate needs; it would become, rather, an intrinsic part of its processes and aims.

“Automation is a material condition and achievable,” Constant claimed in May 1980 in a lecture at the Faculty of Architecture of TU Delft. More than thirty years later, the architecture of full automation is currently being implemented in the city of Rotterdam, from the self-managed logistical infrastructures of the port to the logic and relations that define the physical and social landscape of the city, and across agricultural clusters in the Netherlands. Reflecting on a spectrum of theoretical viewpoints—including New Babylon’s initial proposal for a leisure-oriented society liberated from the bondage of labor; the recent techno-optimistic premise that full automation will bring increasing bounty and luxury; and the dystopian forecast of rampant, machine-abetted human unemployment and inequality—WORK, BODY, LEISURE claims that these visions are already shaping contemporary labor structures and, ultimately, our capacity to redesign them according to a different set of ethical principles.

The project builds upon Automated Landscapes, a long-term collaborative research initiative on the implications of automation for the built environment, launched by Het Nieuwe Instituut in 2017 and directed by its Research Department. In the Dutch Pavilion, this perspective will be in dialogue with contributions by other individuals and organizations. In addition to historical and present-day case studies of automated landscapes in the Netherlands, the project will analyze spatial arrangements and protocols that are molded for the interaction between humans and machines; will explore spaces that challenge traditional distinctions between work and leisure; will address the ways in which evolving notions of labor have categorized and defined bodies at particular moments in time; and will discuss the legal, cultural, and technical infrastructures that enable their exploitation.

26/05 – 25/11

Venice, Italy

Tuesday — Sunday
10.00 — 18.00

 
Nick Axel
Amal Alhaag, Beatriz Colomina, Marten Kuijpers, Victor Muñoz Sanz, Simone C. Niquille, Mark Wigley
Jane Chew and Matthew Stewart, Northscapes Collective (Hamed Khosravi, Taneha K. Bacchin and Filippo laFleur), Noam Toran, Giuditta Vendrame, Paolo Pattelli, Liam Young.
Marina Otero Verzier
Katía Truijen
Chris van Bokhorst
Simone C. Niquille
Hans Gremmen
Raphael Coutin, Marina Otero Verzier
Christiane Bosman, Eveline Mulckhuyse
Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science Creative Industries Fund NL Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands in Rome, Italy

With the title WORK, BODY, LEISURE the 2018 Dutch Pavilion addresses the spatial configurations, living conditions, and notions of the human body engendered by disruptive changes in labor ethos and conditions.