During the 19th century, industrial societies became obsessed with fatigue and optimizing energy use.
We inherited their conceptions of the body as a thermodynamic machine, which remain rooted in our culture today. The hybrid beings depicted by Edmund Alleyn and Erró, like Sci-Fi cyborgs which have become the symbol of our fascination for technology and endurance, are clear proof. This ideal of “tireless bodies” is also present in society’s worship of youth. Using their own bodies, artists like Ewa Partum and Jo Spence explore the dual hardship induced by gender and age.
In the wake of collective hyperactivity, mental exhaustion and nervous breakdown emerged as concepts in the 1950s and inspired new artistic experiments. For example, Chris Burden performed a mandatory 20-day rest, and design studio Archizoom Associati upended the relaxing nature of home furniture. Completed between 1960 and 1989, the historical works presented in this chapter spotlight the relentlessness of the productivist mindset – often maintained to the detriment of human health and the living world.
This chapter can be seen at the Frac Grand Large — Hauts-de-France.