Published in:
Into the Great Wide Open, DPR Barcelona: 2017

This text is based on a chapter of my book Architektur immaterieller Arbeit (Wien: Turia und Kant, 2013). An early version of this text was published in 2009 in mu-dot magazine #2

Download full text as PDF here.

Eine deutsche Version dieses Textes mit dem gleichnamigen Titel ist erschienen in:
Irene Nienhaus, Kathrin Heinz (Hg): Matratze/ Matrize, Möblierung von Subjekt und Gesellschaft, Konzepte in Kunst und Architektur, Transcript (Bielefeld): 2016, Seite 349–360.

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Working Glamour

Today the bed is the paradigmatic site of contemporary forms of knowledge and creative work. It used to be the ultimate utopia of industrial workers, to one day be as glamorous as a queen or monarch holding court and to not have to go to work, but to be able to stay at home in bed. Now the bed is no longer something exclusive or even royal at all, but it continues to be associated with luxury and glamour. The bed, however, is by no means the place where we can lazily lie around to rest from work or even avoid it. Today the bed is the workplace for knowledge and creative work. Like the workers’ quarters, the bed has to be understood as having always been part of the modern capitalist logic of production and reproduction. In an economy in which forms of immaterial labour become dominant however, the bed becomes a symbol for the place of the unbounded labour society of Western, post-industrial nations. Whereas the bed was still the production site of reproduction in modernism, today reproduction has become part of production. Even idleness and inactivity have today become part of the so-called ‘factory of society’ (Tronti, 1974).

In an extension of the term ‘working poor’,[1]I regard the creative and knowledge workers in bed as the ‘glamour poor’. They make the increasing proletarianisation of formerly bourgeois forms of labour evident and allow us to analyse the work of the entrepreneurial self[2]in the digital economy and the space of this work. The workplace bed enables us to grasp the constitution of immaterial labour, which has become increasingly dominant since the 1970s, its subjects and their spaces and architecture. The architecture theorist Beatriz Colomina noted, for example, with reference to a 2012 report in the Wall Street Journal, that eighty percent of all young New Yorkers regularly work from bed[3]. In the figure of the worker in bed, the need for performance from every single working subject becomes visible. Yet the isolation and atomisation of the working individual in bed also becomes tangible. Even though working in bed may seem pleasurable and privileged in the imagination, in reality it is also pure exhaustion, which sometimes becomes manifest in depression. As an architect, I am especially interested in the concomitant modification of working spaces and the effects on architectural practice that become visible in the example of working in bed.

 

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[1]    The term working pooris used in different ways in the relevant literature, but it generally means a group of employed people whose income is below the poverty line despite working multiple jobs.

[2]Ulrich Bröckling, Das unternehmerische Selbst, Soziologie einer Subjektivierungsform(Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp, 2007)

[3]Beatriz Colomina, “The Century of the Bed”, in: The Century of the Bed, ed. By ARGE curated by_vienna (Verlag für modern Kunst: 2014) 18-24.