Mono Men – Guardians of Time by Olivier van Breugel and Simone Mudde is currently on show at FOTODOK in Utrecht. The Paradox project was selected for their thematic exhibition Why Work? Curated by Rob Wetzer, the show reflects on the (dominant) place of work in our lives and societies. Rapid technological change and neoliberal capitalism have fundamentally changed how we work. Experts predict that 50% of the jobs we know today won’t exist in the next twenty years. With Trump “bringing back jobs” in struggling American industries and countries like Finland experimenting with basic income, there’s a lot to be discussed.
With Mono Men Van Breugel and Mudde address the notion of work and retirement in a Japanese context. Posting at various construction sites, they documented the life of Japanese security guards. Come rain or shine, the workers are always there. In Japan the age of teinen (retirement) is 62. However, retiring in Japan does not mean the same thing as in Europe. Teinen marks the end of ‘lifetime employment’ but not a complete withdrawal from the labour force. This transitional arrangement is designed to free up jobs for younger workers. What’s more, if you have spent your entire career working six days a week and most of your social life has revolved around work, retirement is akin to social isolation. For the exhibition, Paradox, Van Breugel and Mudde created a site-specific installation of Mono Men: a small-scale model of the full production. Check out the FOTODOK website for upcoming events and talks.