On August 3, 2013 Citizens VS Work, a public trial was held in Cologne Germany. 6 people’s real work cases were presented and the public audience judged work innocent or guilty after deliberating on who and what was guilty - systems, structures and work environments or the individual. The trial aims at producing insight, reflection and understanding of the root causes of work challenges and allow for the development of ideas of amelioration.

Full documentation on the project and continued trials can be seen by visiting the project page CITIZENS VS WORK

Creating the Trial – Art Residency in Cologne
August 27, 2013 · by alxwyt · in Uncategorized

CAT (Community Art Team) Cologne’s scholarship winner and artist in residency, Alex White Mazzarella (Founder of Artefacting), was invited to Cologne to work with Gregor Leschig (Director of Bin Ich Arbeit) in the creation of a public trial. Here is a breakdown of how things developed over the course of two weeks.

Bin Ich Arbeit? (Am I Work?)

A cathartic theatrical workshop led by Gregor Leschig brought artists and non-artists together in a structured environment to produce clarity of their work challenges and acknowledge changes that can be made to better one’s work life. The workshop started with a basic establishment of the mechanics of work; elements such as greed, money, idleness, stress, profit, time etc. – acknowledging the forces that push pull and bend us in different directions.

Participants then enacted situations that brought out their inner voices exhibiting what these voices tell them. Sometimes its we need to sell, we need a break, etc. etc. Then specific situations in the work environment were re created to bring focus to identify opportunities for sensitively intervening and diverting abuses or unwanted outcomes – interventions that can ameliorate conditions-whether it be realizing that a work system is broken instead of fighting, coming together to placate the boss and let them know that the team can finish things tomorrow, etc. etc.

From this workshop and exercises Citizens VS. Work continued with an aim to produce work insight and amelioration but in public space with the public.

Citizens VS. Work

A handful of the workshop participants volunteered to be a part of the CAT // Artefacting residency project Citizens VS. Work. The team worked together with artist-in-residency Alex White Mazzarella in developing how best to create a trial.

First step was in devising a way to approach the public about work-we started with a range of interview questions for the public to identify what work has given people but also to identify gaps between people’s desire to be free and happy, and the obstacles, stress and dehumanizing effects work poses.

  • What “work” will you choose to do when you return to earth? (Welche Art Von Arbeit wu?rdest du machen wollen, wenn du zur Erde zuru?ckehren du?rftest?)

  • What “job” will you take when you come back to earth? (Welchen Job wu?rdest du machen wollen, wenn du zur Erde zuru?ckkehren du?rftest?)

  • What Is work? (Was ist Arbeit?)

  • What does work mean? (Was bedeutet arbeiten? Was bedeutet Arbeit?)

  • What is a system? Do we work as people? (Was ist das System? Arbeiten Wir als Menschen?)

  • What does work taken away from you? (Was nimmt dir Arbeit?)

  • What does work give you? (Was gibt dir Arbeit? Was Hast du von deiner Arbeit?)

  • What could work be? (Wie könnte Arbeit aussehen?)

  • What do you value in your work? (Was schätzt du an deiner Arbeit?)

  • Why do you work? (Warum arbeitest du?)

  • What is the most difficult part of your work? (Was ist das schwierigste an deiner Arbeit?)

  • How can you imagine your job as a good one? (Wie mu?sste dein Job aussehen, damit er eine gute Arbeit wäre?)

We politely and gently approached people passing by and sitting introducing ourselves and what we were doing; producing a theatre trial from people’s real work stories and challenges. We invited individuals to contribute a work experience or challenge that they faced or are facing for trial consideration.

Whilst participants responded openly and eagerly to the questions, the questions served more to break the ice and get closer to the participant. Understood is that what is most important is connecting with participants. We shared our work and life stories to make it clear we were on the same page. This work is not about taking as it is about sharing and producing together. Making this clear and approaching individuals as equals, not subjects, is essential to gaining the trust needed for participants to open up and share their life and challenges.

A good 20 people shared their stories and some were especially interested in getting involved in out project. From the interviews gathered, interesting and diverse cases were selected. For participants not available to come and present their own cases, we had members in our volunteer group interested in theatre act out other people’s cases.

The Trial

On Saturday, around 5
o’clock our team began to set up the trial. We went around to people relaxing in the park inviting them to watch or participate in the trial and gave them a voting card-­?an A4 piece of cardboard with green on one side and red on the other (green would indicate innocent, red would indicate guilty)

The facilitator, played by Christoph der Bauz, presented the trial and the question of work is guilty, right? Arbeit (work), played by Alex White- Mazzarella, made the defending statement of am I guilty or are you guilty?

Put on trial the cases commenced with Christoph introducing the different cases, and facilitating audience participation. The cases presented were based on the work stories of our interviewees, played out by the interviewees and even the interviewees themselves (those who were available).

1) I will be soon looking for work and am afraid work will steal my soul
2) My job as a lawyer does not allow me to be empathetic to people
3) Work has separated me from my daughters
4) Work has taught me how to be responsible and how to build relations with people
5) I had a mental and physical attack because of work -­? Complete burnout
6) Work is unable to deliver on its promise of self-­?fulfillment
7) Work is shortening my life as I have to punish my body and work through the night; time when my body needs to sleep to recharge

After each case the audience was given the chance to present supporting or opposing evidence, and even bring up a case of their own before voting work guilty (red) or innocent (green)

The trial ended with four decisions for work, and four decisions against work. Yet before closure a voting audience member brought to court another case, arguing that work should be dismissed for everything in life is work.
Closing remarks Arbeit’s closing remarks were that he indeed could not be guilty for he was nothing more than a reflection of how people treat each other and themselves