Hardly Working

film, Apr.2021

NPCs are digital Sisyphus machines that have no perspective of breaking out of their activity loops. In the moments when the algorithm shows inconsistencies, the NPCs break out of the logic of total normality, and appear touchingly human.

Hardly Working

Film 2022 / 4 channel video installation, 2021

Hardly Working gives priority to characters that normally fade into the background of video games: NPCs. NPCs are non-playable characters that populate hyper real worlds to create the appearance of normality. Usually these digital extras play no major role in the story of the game. Here a laundress, a stableman, a street sweeper, and a handyman are the four main characters of this film. With ethnographic precision, the film observes their daily work: a rhythm composed of loops that makes them work daily and tirelessly. Their work neither results in a product, nor does it change anything about their status quo. In light of Hannah Arendt description of ‘animal laborans’ – in contrast to the acting subject –, the NPCs as individuum are an exaggeration as their work performance actually manifests their status.

Here, work becomes a pure performance, carried out for its own sake. NPCs perform so-called surrogate actions that generate no social benefit. These actions are performed and enforced for the sake of appearances to ensure a social order.

NPCs are digital Sisyphus machines that have no perspective of breaking out of their activity loops. In the moments when the algorithm of their existence shows inconsistencies, the NPCs break out of the logic of total normality, display their own faultiness, and appear touchingly human.

Text, direction and concept: Susanna Flock, Robin Klengel, Leonhard Müllner, Michael Stumpf / Music: Adrian Haim / Narration: Jacob Banigan and Lorenz Kabas / Lead Editing: Robin Klengel, additional editing: Susanna Flock, Leonhard Müllner / Camera: Robin Klengel, Leonhard Müllner / Modding: RCPisAwesome / Cast: A_F_M_Asbtownfolk_02 as "The Street Sweeper", A_F_M_SDSlums_02 as "The Laundress", A_M_M_NBXDockworkers_01 as "The Carpenter", A_M_M_VALLaborer_01 as "The Stable Hand" / Coproduced by: Kunsthaus Graz / Cofunded by: Land Steiermark, Kunstraum Steiermark Stipend / The Work was realised within the framework of the European Media Art Platforms residency program at Werkleitz with support of the Creative Europe Culture Programme of the European Union

Photos: Total Refusal, N. Lackner
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