Club Stahlbad takes a stab at the dysfunctionality of the established spaces of entertainment, where “fun” is obligatory as a ritualized counterpart to “labor” - subordinating both work and “free time” to the logics of capital accumulation.
Can fun, euphoria and intoxication be programmed? Fidgeting limbs, blank stares - the dancing frenzy of the NPCs (non-playable characters) in Club Stahlbad hint at the extent to which the partygoers actually their leisurely escape from the gray daily grind. Based on the famous quote by sociologist Theodor W. Adorno, "Fun is a steel bath. The amusement industry prescribes it incessantly.", Total Refusal exposes the striking similarity between work and leisure in capitalism through the dancers' tireless monotony of pleasure. While other avatars maneuver through battlefields with delicate grace, the dancers’ movements remain clumsy and awkward. Their glitches seem more natural than the predefined dancing choreographies they perform. The fact that the electronic music that dominates today's club and party scene is directly related to the pounding beat of the machines in the factories of heavy industry was already clear in advance to the critics of the culture industry, which now completely permeates our lives and sets the rhythm for us even in our supposed idleness. In the pale reflection of the NPCs, the reality of one's own life is thus stares back at us far more than the initial amused discomfort would suggest.Total Refusal, Markus Tretter, DOK20