As an object, 75 Watt looks convincingly like a fully operational modern electronic something or other, but it has no function beyond being manufacturable, or more accurately being mass producible, and most importantly being made in China. But at heart, 75 Watt is a living design performance project video. With regard to its materials, dimensions, and various components the design of the actual object is specific not to any imagined function but entirely serves the production line choreography; the object is not the object.
Noting a finding in Marks’ Standard Handbook for Mechanical Engineers that “A labourer over the course of an 8-hour day can sustain an average output of about 75 watts,” the London-based, Dutch and Israeli design team of Cohen and Van Balen, with<a href="http://www.alexanderwhitley.com/"target="_blank"> Alexander Whitley</a>, a London-based choreographer and Royal Ballet fellow, reappropriated a production line factory in the epicenter of “Made in China,” the Pearl River Delta, to create their assembly line performance piece and manufacture 40 objects.
Whitley created and rehearsed the work at the Royal Ballet studios and had one day of rehearsal in the factory with the workers prior to the one day, on-site filming in China. Production line work is always a dance of it’s own design: a logical mechanical choreographing of the best time- and energy-efficient movements possible for the task at hand.
The dance of 75 Watt turns the mechanical movement of assembly line work into performance theater that invokes a geopolitical commentary on industrialism and a critique of both global and local sociocultural ramifications of capitalist consumerism, while at the same time celebrating the human spirit of ingenuity and innovation.We all choreograph our daily movements and design our living and working spaces with some sort of logic in mind, whether knowingly or unknowingly. Though not quite the scientific model that say Christine Frederick would hope for with her 1912 <a href="http://www.moma.org/explore/inside_out/2010/09/24/a-counter-space-odyssey/"target="_blank">Efficiency Studies in Home</a>, cooking in my house is a kitchen dance of some stripe that, viewed over time and from some elevated perspective, would surely present a series of repeated patterns and revised refined rhythmic actions.
Yes, I take much more pleasure measuring and mixing and slicing and dicing, than I did in those mostly mind numbing repetitive tasks of that long ago summer vacation assembly line job, but still…time and movement choreography is a choreography is a choreography…
Both the object and the video for 75 Watt are currently on view at MoMA in the exhibition A Collection of Ideas, an installation of contemporary design that both celebrates new exciting work and introduces new categories of design investigation.