/08 Works

David Mozziconacci


A factory façade
reveals nothing
about what goes
on behind it

A factory façade reveals nothing about what goes
on behind it. But labour –the work of workers—
is the object of a body of knowledge and of a
ceaseless production of knowledge: theory of
exploitation, reflection about the technological
changes in the clash between manual and
intellectual, analyses of the de-industrialization
of Europe, and of workers’ mental and
physical suffering, and so on and so forth.
David Mozziconacci’s photographs explore the
inside of a factory making engines. They focus
neither on the façade, neither on this know-ledge.
They go beyond outward representation, but they
do not immediately replace it with the “critical”
recording expected of a state of alienation.
In what they show these images do not erase
exploitation; rather they erase things which,
in this factory, resemble neither the system of
production prevailing therein, nor the various
forms of discourse which already govern labour.
The inside of a factory does not look like
itself: such, though expressed in a more
abrupt way, is David Mozziconacci’s starting
point. So his photography is not organized
by the distinction between document and
fiction; it rather disturbs their opposition. To
appreciate these dissimilarities, it is important
not to duplicate the continual course of the
production line; a sidestep must be made, like
his pictures. The gestures made in it are singled
out turn by turn, as are the huge engines that
are produced, the workshop and office areas,
the computer work stations, the people, the
furniture, the arrival at the site, and leaving
it. And alongside these elements, the colours,
the relations between body and machine,
between people, the differences in scale, and
the portraits. Once assembled and displayed,
the potentially variable and multiple visual
trajectories of these photographs reinstate
the presence of people, objects and places:
they steer the eye towards what is going on.
First photograph. The bulk of an engine fills
the centre of the image, or rather vectors it.
At one end of this large engine, a shiny metal
cylinder seems to trigger a movement, pointing
in a particular direction, while at the other end
a larger black cylinder underpins the object. A
coil of wires covers a part of it, used to check the
circuits: there is an impression of irregular mess
and complexity. Two men in blue overalls have
their backs to us, one in front of the engine, the
other behind it. The first, below, stoops beneath
the engine block and takes a close look at it. The
second stands behind the engine; we can see the
nape of his neck crooked towards a telephone.
Strange scene of a threesome: without conferring,
the first physically lingers on the engine, while
the second gathers and transmits information
about it. Division of labour, or task sharing? The
engine resembles an object being tended to, it
is more a “person of the thing” than a simple
object, while, in the background to the right, a
blue panel appears holding a whole array of tools.
Second, third and fourth photographs. This is a
gesture involving four hands and three voyant
bodies; as we say: it is a string quartet. Three men
whose extended arms trace a tension around
an invisible wire. On the left, a man seen partly
from behind raises the wire, arm held high; in
the middle, a man in black takes up his gesture,
pulling the wire upwards in turn, his other
arm accompanying the effort, his eyes totally
focussed on the invisibility; while to the right
a man perched on a stool, his face off-screen,
hold the reel up high. His green Vicky shirt
attracts our attention and unfocuses it, further
increasing the strangeness of the scene. They
have a pose, but we do not know what: a check? a
control? an operation? Freeze frame of a collective
adjustment, a dramatic moment more akin to a
musical instrumentation than a work process.
Another image attaches to this one, a close-up
view in which three hands steady a cylinder
while a fourth fixes it from inside. Dialogue of
bodies around the machine, and in its hollow
centre. Or alternatively this other image, where
a man’s torso presents a machine-tooled piece,
an extremely beautiful finished item. One
thinks right away of Donald Judd’s specific
objects, with the slight difference that, here,
the object passes between hands, sharing
the visible space with the body carrying it.
Fifth and sixth photographs. Along one of
the yellow lines demarcating the areas of the
workshop, a protected space cut out in the factory’s
large premises, a provisional architecture
made up of panels. On the black surface of the
panels appear diagrams and plans, sheets of
paper with figures, a stray pink Post-it. Another
photograph shows workers standing together.
Image of an empty space, image of an impromptu
meeting, happening vertically. The shift from one
to the other gives form to what no isolated shot
can show: the alienating constraint of work time.
Seventh photograph. An iron can, in the image
of a dark nook, barely stands out. What is distinctive
about it is that it is set on four wheels.
The factory improvises the object. Hitherto,
this can, its use unknown, could only move
by rolling horizontally: now it can roll about
upright. Cylinders, reels, engine blocks are all
placed on round tables or stands to give the
best possible access. The spherical appears time
and again in many of the workshop pictures,
and the workshop in its turn seems to be a
place where geometric forms are repeated.
Eighth photograph. In the right half of the image,
a body dressed in black. The colour makes a whole
in the dark image, its mattness further heightening
the effect. Foreground and background
vanish along a diagonal which crushes the other
half of the photograph, disproportionately
enlarging the figure. Through the disquieting
upsurge of this giant, the image first seems to
project into another space, the space of the tale.
Yet this man’s activity does indeed involve work.
Except that his work also takes on a frightening
aspect. His job is to sign and annotate the sheets
of paper in a stapled bundle, while the rest float
beside him. The sheets he signs are laid down
in an odd way: what acts as a temporary office
is a computer in the crook of another man’s
arm—the man remaining invisible behind the
giant’s mass. He is working on a body become
furniture. So the image wavers, where the
childish fears of the tale meet the adult anxieties
of the world of work. In its polarization of
fiction and reality, this photograph turns out
to be like a clue to its author’s method.
Ninth and tenth photographs. The visual trajectory
through the factory is not limited to the
workshop area. By not complying with the
instructions controlling the distribution of the
bodies, and fixing them to their work station,
these images link places of production and
administration. One shows a redhead, hands
tucked beneath her chin; on her left, a computer
screen she is not looking at, in the foreground
a telephone and some files are set on the desk.
The light cast on her makes her stand out against
the white wall. Engrossed and almost contemplative,
her pose conveys a pictorial memory, that
of those Dutch pictures which discovered in
women at work a new expression of the world’s
prose. Another office image is more boisterous:
a woman in a coat, sitting on her chair, looks at
the spectator. We do not know if she is coming
or going, if she’s irked by being photographed,
or if she’s just irked at being there, period.
Eleventh and twelfth photographs. The visual
trajectory is not restricted to the indoor areas.
In front of a façade in the site, neither inside
nor out, on the edge of a building, a man in
beige clothes is smoking and having a coffee.
On his left, the window in the beige wall gives
onto machine tools. He appears to the side,
against a backdrop of a bright patch of colour, a
very lovely blue. This is a moment of abeyance,
and a moment of painting, associated.
All that remains to be described is the view of
the turnstiles in the entrance, a paradoxical
place of control and freedom, through which
workers arrive and leave. Through which,
too, the photographer has passed, mingling
his eye with lives paced by the factory.

Antonia Birnbaum

Prahecq, France, May 2011

“Corps-usine project was supported by the visual arts center Image/imatge, Orthez, France, and the Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication de la République Française.”