Research Stay: Domietta Torlasco

From the middle of September, critical theorist and filmmaker Domietta Torlasco is in Berlin for a month research stay at the Harun Farocki Institut. As part of a transnational project on ordinary media, Torlasco will focus her research on editing as the free audiovisual labor that we perform on and across a variety of platforms. What can we learn from the history of cinema on changing our editing habits and, possibly, going on an editing strike? On October 17, 2023, we will host a screening of selected films by Torlasco and a discussion at Arsenal Cinema. More information about this event will follow soon.


Call for an Editing Strike

First Turn

The premise of this brief investigation is quite ordinary: we live amidst screens; indeed, we might have become screens ourselves—watching, listening to, trading with, addressing, dating, consuming other screens. We experience screen anxiety, screen withdrawal, screen craving, screen exhilaration. Much of what we do on screen is labor—screen labor—in ways that could not be fully anticipated by the transactions of twentieth century mass culture. This labor is often underpaid or, simply, unpaid—free. [Terranova, “Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy.”] The difference between working for a paycheck and working for free is inerasable and yet, in the social factory, these two kinds of work operate together.

(The “we” in these notes is tentative and highly heterogenous; “we” is a multitude for which a pronoun is yet to be found.)

Second Turn

This ubiquitous screen labor is but a form of editing—sorting, cutting, combining, reviewing, superimposing materials of all sorts. These materials are never raw and the hours we spend reworking them are seldom clocked in. This is no longer the editing of the industrial worker: “In the age of reproduction, Vertov’s famous man with the movie camera has been replaced by a woman at an editing table, baby on her lap, a twenty-four-hour shift ahead of her.” [Steyerl, “Cut! Reproduction and Recombination.”] The link between editing and domestic labor is neither random nor occasional. Women have always been men’s favorite editors—invisible, supplemental, multitasking ahead of the times. The film industry owns them plenty and so does the economy of immaterial labor.

Let me be clear: editing has always existed outside editing rooms and movie theatres. Eisenstein found montage at work in the Athenian acropolis and Benjamin in the cities and factories of modernity. Yet, today, editing-perception-labor have become one. Montage is more than a figure of speech: on and across digital platforms, we have all become film editors.

Third Turn

How do we resist, refuse, redefine this incessant kind of labor? how do we go on strike? The situation is tricky. Screen editing has become naturalized—invisible in plain sight. Its networks are essential to the global production of needs, goods, data, peoples, desires. Walkouts and sabotage, together with the pathos of Eisenstein’s Strike, can only offer partial guidance; the interlock of production and command is always contextual and so is the strike. [Negri, “Notes on the Abstract Strike.”] What can we learn from cinema itself, which after all has invented itself by inventing montage

Call for an Editing Strike is an intermedia project that begins by looking at the history of cinema and the history of feminist struggle (from the Wages for Housework movement to the collective Precarias a la Deriva to feminist hackerspaces) in search of tactics, gestures, rhythms that can help us envision new forms of stoppage and ways of living together.  (Domietta Torlasco)

September 21st, 2023 — Projects / Research