How Will We Work?, an exhibition by the University of Applied Arts Vienna in cooperation with the Vienna Biennale 2017, addresses in analytical and speculative ways, future forms and functions of human work. Het Nieuwe Instituut’s contribution focused on the case of the new container terminal in the port of Rotterdam, where self-driving vehicles, automated cranes and diverse interfaces maximize the handling of containers with unprecedented performance and productivity.
In Constant’s New Babylon, humankind, freed by automation, would devote its energy to creativity. However, violence—depicted by bloody figures in paintings his late paintings—was the reverse side of his creation: “an uncertain universe in which the ‘normal’ man is at the mercy of every possible destructive force, every kind of aggression.” Away from the dangers of the old crane cabin, operators perform their tasks in a human-centered design environment. Hyper-ergonomic chairs and desks, screens, and joysticks show the shift in the relation of humans with machines; now robots and their supervision impose a certain posture and focus on workers: the machine animates the worker, rather than the worker animating the machine.
Since its opening in May 2009, the FutureLand Visitor Centre has received more than 825.000 visitors. The centre offers daily bus and ferry tours around the Maasvlakte 2 and into the automated AMP Terminals. Tourists, leisure and nature areas, and autonomous machines make of this territory a stage where the architecture for the homo ludens is reenacted and reimagined. The project for Maasvlakte 2 had not anticipated a plan for the workers whose profession would render redundant by automation, when a loss of between 200 to 800 jobs could be expected. Shortly after the terminals opened, dockworkers went on a strike, forcing a social agreement in which only temporary measures were taken to avoid forced layoffs until 2020. The case study of the automated APM Terminal in Maasvlakte 2 was approached from alternative references as access to primary resources was limited. Patents, commercial documents, specialized articles, video footage, etc. were reviewed and used to unfold the constituents of the site, and produce analysis and visualizations.
How Will We Work? was on display between June 21 and September 27 2017 at the University of Applied Arts Vienna Angewandte Innovation Laboratory.