Johanna Bruckner

Breaking the Employment Contract is part of my research on the feminization of labor in agencies and coaching rhetorics.


The video shows a staged reading of a fictive work contract, which makes visible how care, commitment, and emotional control are passive requirements in any working agreement, yet transforming personal value into capital. Emphasis is given on critically examining the cultivation of feminine stile as a measure for a cooperative work ethic today - and the affirmation of a female behaviour as an economic instrument. The contract has been commented on by ten employees from different occupations; and has been rewritten. Culture today situates us to a great extend in the form of advices, instructions and affective control; coaches function as conciliators, legislative bodies, and mentors for the soul. The form of the contract thus examines the lawful language („gesetzförmige Sprache“) that activates and guides the affective self.


The fictive contract that was rewritten by the employees is transformed into a legal document by three lawyers specialized in the law of labor. An office situation was created at the art fair Art Athina. The contract was presented at the desk, including the reflections by the participants on the desk. The video on the performance of the fictive contract was shown in the video monitor.


Complicities of Sentience. New Contractualism Citizen Support Group is a research group which investigates the link between new contractualism, legalcy and the surveillance of affective behavior. Developing a platform to support citizens on questions examining how the affective body is made property of the employer. The core group consists of artists, researchers and lawyers.


A triangle constellation between a coach, the super ego and the ego of the artist stage a conversation on the ability of being able. The usual surveillance of the affective self in self-optimizing concepts is being challenged through auto-surveillance: the super ego and the ego take notes of the conversation. On the other screen of the installation, we see an internal conference hosted by the ego’s body and the body’s super ego (the animation). In their critique they refer to the statements by the coach and challenge how coaches function as legislators for the soul today; we can ready simultaneously on the second screen.


In an internal conference emotions and personality parts of a subject such as Desire/Love, Empathy, Morale, Confidence, Ambition, Sensibility, as well as Creditor, Debtor, Employability, Participant Observer – all acting in personified roles – consider modalities of subjectivation based on emotional efficiency in a company structure today. How can emotional surplus be transformed into a site of resistance within the mechanisms of subjectivation?

The performance starts by considering exhaustion in the feminist reception of af- fective labor. Starting from an observation on the current feminization of labor, fol- lowed by a politicization of the exhausted self, it both reconsiders Radical Feminist Therapy of the 70’s, and the concept of Collaborative Poetics to further understand affirmation within negation and resignation today. Performers transform discourse into movement, which they invented in work- shops with the artist, while articulating quotes based on the research material.


This work examines the cultural operation of affects, with emphasis on exhaustion, and reflects statements by employees and company directors on affirmative strategies to prevent work exhaustion. The focus lies on the invisibility in the decoration of the ability to be able – the performance of “decorative labor“ in working environments.


For several recent projects I have worked with performers and actors on various aspects regarding affective labor - the affirmation of commitment and care in their work environments; with emphasis on contemporary contractualism. In this work you can hear those various voices of actors and performers while reflecting on the non-contractual work with the artist, me. We can hear their experiences on the performance of (non)contractual labor in today working realities, and how notions of performance – and invisible labor are conceptualized and materialized in the individual’s consciousnesses. To be presented in an audio installation.