3D animation, sound, duration 00:03:58sec
Dream Job full video
Reddit: a website community for people to discuss any topic in forums called 'subreddits' or just 'subs'. In 2023 the 10th most visited website in the world.
Antiwork: Unemployment for all, not just the rich!: a subreddit for those who want to end work, are curious about ending work, want to get the most out of a work-free life, want more information on anti-work ideas and want personal help with their own jobs/work-related struggles.
The Antiwork subreddit is in the top 1% largest communities on Reddit and during the covid pandemic grew from 13k members in 2019 to 2.6M members in 2023.
Brad Darkson in collaboration with 2.6million people
Lead animator – Thom Dickson
Animation consultant – Arthur Ah Chee
A Liquid Architecture / Disclaimer and Sydney Opera House / Shortwave commission
Thanks to Liang Luscombe for curatorial and ACOLAB Tarntanya (Adelaide) for animation assistance
‘Liberals say we should end employment discrimination. I say we should end employment.’
— Bob Black, ‘The Abolition of Work’1
From longer work hours, to increased demands at home in which work and home life has been completely blurred; as the COVID-19 pandemic grew, so has employee anti-work sentiment. One of the online centres of this discourse has been the subreddit ‘r/antiwork’, which in 2023 has 2.6 million members, making it the top 1% largest community on Reddit and in fact the 10th most visited website in the world. A subreddit that considers what life without work might look like, it provides a space for workers to share their endlessly fucked-up job experiences to discussions of anti-bullying tactics, quitting, advocacy for ongoing labour strikes, and the four-day work week. The many conversations and frustrated posts found here provides the core of Brad Darkson’s new video commission Dream Job (2023) in which we hear directly from these workers, their posts turned into the video’s increasingly vocal chorus. In contrast, we take up the camera’s point of view as management, gliding rather mechanically above a surreal world of empty computer workstations that stretch far out into the horizon — perhaps a scene of digital workers refusing to return to the office — to find the location of the unseen employee chorus.
Both across the sea of computers and the numerous speakers discussing abusive bosses and poor work conditions, Darkson dramatizes the angry assembly, one speaker advising another to document all HR correspondence, another wishing they could work four hours a day so they could spend more time with their toddler, each trying to make sense of why labour has been constructed in this draconian and often ineffective manner. David Graeber also attempted to answer this through the identification of the perverse phenomena of managerial feudalism2 which Graeber describes in an interview with The Economist, ‘They keep adding new managerial positions in between the people producing stuff and the guys ultimately paying for it, often whose only role is to sit around all day trying to sell things to each other. Health and education are equally hard hit: managers now feel they need to each have their little squadron of assistants, who often have nothing to do, so they end up making up new exotic forms of paperwork for the teachers, doctors, nurses… who thus have ever less time to actually teach or treat or care for anyone.’ 3 This results in less of the value of work being seen in what it actually produces, and thus, the experience of the work for the worker (both its enjoyment in undertaking and the gratification of knowing ones work benefits others) is seen as lower in value.4
Dream Job strangely feels like an audio recording of after-work drinks. Unlike the 2022 television show Severence, in which the employees who work on the so-called severance floor at corporation Lumon Industries remember nothing of what happens in the office (each having undergone a surgical procedure in which their consciousness is literally severed between work and home), Darkson’s speakers are haunted by work. This haunting spills over into Severence too, where the ‘innie’ workers, who are cut off from their home lives are subjected to more surreal and intolerable work conditions, begin to question the motives of their bosses and form worker solidarity. In Dream Job the solidarity of the chorus feels central to both reveal the peril of workplaces without unionisation, and the powerful discontent closed within the cubicle walls.
— Liang Luscombe