EXHIBITION: Danielle Dean’s Amazon exploring the changing nature of human labour

A video installation inspired by the fall of a city built by Ford Motors is set to open tomorrow at Tate Britain.

Danielle Dean’s Amazon explores the changing nature of human labour, examining practices of production, data extraction and commercial advertising.

Ms Dean, who was born to a Nigerian father and an English mother in Alabama and brought up in London, often explores the effects of media and cultural production on the mind and body in her work.

She uses videos, paintings, installations, and performances to question how individuals are shaped by commercial narratives around them, particularly in advertising.

Ms Dean’s work is imaginative and often blurs the line between fact and fiction.

She uses the aesthetics and language of traditional advertising to highlight and interrogate global capitalism and systems of racial discrimination.

For Amazon, Dean was inspired by research into the Ford Motor archives in Detroit.

While she was there, she discovered the car manufacturer’s experimental city in Brazil, Fordlândia, which was built with the aim to control rubber production.

The city was abandoned in 1934 after the workers rebelled against the poor working conditions and the disregard of local indigenous knowledge.

Ms Dean’s piece reflects on the events that led to Fordlândia’s collapse by re-enacting the history with workers from the contemporary labour-crowdsourcing marketplace Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT).

AMT digitally distributes tasks to a global remote workforce, some of whom generate data which is then used to train artificial intelligence algorithms.

Amazon traces the similarities and differences between trends in the current gig economy at AMT and Ford’s industrial assembly line in Fordlândia.

For the exhibition at Tate Britain, Dean collaborated with AMT workers around the world over the past two years, directing them to film themselves in their own homes.

The resulting multi-channel video work shines a light on the isolation of these roles and  investigates the changing nature of labour and racial politics of global capital.

This video will be screened amongst an installation of sculptures and a fictional landscape watercolour by Ms Dean, inspired by Fordlândia and advertising materials from the Ford archives.

This is the latest in Tate Britain’s ongoing Art Now series of free exhibitions showcasing emerging talent and highlighting the latest developments in British art.

Art Now: Danielle Dean is at Tate Britain from February 5 to May 28.

Photo: Courtesy of the Artist


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