Chinese Labor

Chinese Labor

By Joe Sneed & Jordan Thomas Mitchell

A definition of structured time:

1. Where does it repeat? 2. Divide it at that point. 3. Divide again.

There is a colloquial assumption that time is a natural entity. This error rests on

a confusion of metered time with that of the a priori concept of duration, e.g. the

revolution of the sun. Duration is concomitantly present in the completion of a

cycle or, an action, i.e. how long does it take the sun to revolve? If it is possible to

observe duration, qua appearance it is possible to subject it by division in abstracto. The

imposition of meter upon duration is a way to control the duration of an action,

via time.

A definition of labor:

1. How long does it take to do it? 2. Divide it proportionally. 3. Do it in that time.

If an action undertaken by the body (to swing, to hammer, to stitch, to pull, etc…)

is brought under the relationship outlined above, the dominance of imposed

metric (objectivity) will force the action into tighter units of quantification until

the original act of the body is eliminated and replaced with a schema, or a

simulation as a means of control. Labor is the consent to durational imposition

on the body itself, i.e. inside of a single duration (a work-day, for instance) the

body permits itself to be subjected for the purpose of yielding controlled output

via what would essentially be seen as “management.”


1. Do it in x-time. 2. Measure the duration shifts. 3. Observe the simulation.

Chinese Labor will attempt to analyze a selection of video clips taken of manual

laborers in Chongqing, China. The analysis will focus on abstracting various

durations of footage (loops), juxtaposing the re-appropriated footages against

one another (via durational ratios), and observing the postulated simulation of

time as a measure of somatic control manifest in labor.


1. Screen A. 2. Screen. B 3. Screen C.

Possible permutations of a 3-second sample of footage are what follow. Screen A

shows all 3 seconds before revolving, Screen B shows 2 seconds before revolving,

Screen C shows 1 second before revolving. Screen A shows second 1 before

revolving, Screen B shows second 2 before revolving, Screen C shows second 3

before revolving. Screen A shows seconds 1, 2 & 3 in linear order, Screen B shows

seconds 1, 2 & 3 in retrograde, Screen C shows seconds 1, 2 & 3 at random, etc.