Credit: Andonian Timothée / Iméra
Robert Schlicht and Romana Schmalisch
Fishing for Flotsam – À la pêche à l’épave
Summary of the research project
Our new long-term project “Fishing for Flotsam”, which is based on research in the industrial harbour of Marseille-Fos, will revolve around the emblematic image of modern globalisation, the container, which in its standardised, abstract form and with its opaque surfaces reveals nothing about the commodities it contains, let alone about the relations of worldwide economic exchange in a globalised capitalist world. The container will act as the device allowing us to create connections and chains of associations. We intend to cinematographically and theoretically connect and juxtapose the real operations on container ships, in harbours and distribution centres, the piloting of vessels, the organisation and modelling of flows of ships and containers, the history of trade, the reification of social relations, the simulation of operations, the fetishisation of objects, and the mystification of society – in order to create a conceptual image (or ‘Denkbild’, as per Walter Benjamin) of the container as the pivotal object of the global economy today – reflecting but also transcending a reality that has ‘slipped into the functional’.
“Fishing for Flotsam” is a visual, cinematic and theoretical artistic project developed in close collaboration with actors from the port of Marseille-Fos. The project will manifest itself in various media, with an essay film at the centre, but also including lectures, site-specific installations, as well as theoretical explorations in the form of texts, workshops and symposia with participants from the fields of, among others, economics, art and film, AI programming, labour history and philosophy.
Romana Schmalisch is an artist and filmmaker and studied Fine Arts at the Berlin University of the Arts. She was artist-in-residence at many institutions including the Jan Van Eyck Academy in Maastricht, Studio Voltaire in London and Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers. Robert Schlicht is a filmmaker and artist who studied Philosophy at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.
Since 2004, Schmalisch and Schlicht work at the interface of film and theory, reflecting on how to represent historical processes and societal structures in film. The theme of labour in capitalist societies is a focal point in their films, exhibitions and lecture series. Their works include the 2013-2014 screening and performance series The Choreography of Labour at Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers, the play All the best from Labour Power Plant at La Commune – Centre Dramatique National in Aubervilliers in 2017, the solo exhibitions Titre de travail at FRAC Grand Large–Hauts-de-France in Dunkerque, Humanity at work at Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin in 2018, and their full-length feature film Labour Power Plant, which premiered at the Berlinale International Film Festival in 2019. A monograph on their work around the topic of labour is forthcoming from Archive Books in late 2022.