How does culture affect work attitudes?

One of the weaknesses of the Berlin project is that you don't learn much about the people who are doing something, who are trying to make ends meet or who are trying to achieve their goals. How much longer does the courier who rushes through Berlin on his bike have to deliver letters and parcels? Until the beginning of the semester or until you retire? Would the supervisor at the Natural History Museum in Łódź prefer to do something else? Does she look at her mobile phone because time doesn't want to go by? Each of the films provokes curiosity and ends before it is satisfied.

But this deliberate weakness is also the strength of this exhibition. It tempts you to look. Theses and previous knowledge must be silent. If you take your time, you will experience diversity and the most varied of rhythms. And of course, noise and shouts are often part of work or music. Sound showers ensure that you discover your own world of sounds at each station; you can see pictures from other cities, but only hear the sound of one city.

What you do is always more than a job

The participants in the workshops had to find a beginning and an end, a camera setting - static or moving. Sometimes an anecdotal rounding succeeded, for example in Mexico City. Bani Khoshoudi portrayed a Frida Kahlo actress ("Frida Kallejera"), who is carefully costumed and made up, sitting in the street in front of an easel and waiting for gifts that do not sell labor but offer street art. A somewhat torn looking boy rushes by, the transsexual Frida calls out to him and gives him a coin.

We encounter pictures of the world of work comparatively seldom, although there is no lack of pictures, at least less than pictures of home furnishings or leisure fun. There are also not too many films that tell, beyond conventions of genre and reporter clichés, how we work life away in this way. In the House of World Cultures you can see dozens and it is - also thanks to the solemn, sober exhibition architecture by Kuehn Malvezzi - a pleasure to take the time for an expedition into the exotic world of creating, working, operating machines or people . A curtain in a semicircle darkens the exhibition hall, it seems as if it is a matter of measuring your own cosmos.

Gustave Courbet's stone knockers or the workers in Adolph Menzel's "Eisenwalzwerk" resembled heroes; in August Sander's photographs the workers stood as types, characteristic of a whole world. You will look in vain for the heroic and the typical in this Berlin exhibition, the concluding of the project "An Attitude to Work". Anyone who wants to find out something about the present should take the time to look into their faces and hands, as they should expose themselves to the tension between the brevity of the films and the length of a working life. There remain many questions and the certainty: No, no matter what we call work, it is never just a job.

An attitude towards work. A project by Antje Ehmann and Harun Farocki. House of World Cultures, Berlin, bis April 6th. Info: www.hkw.de/arbeit. The films can be seen at www.eine-stellung-zur-arbeit.net

Research into the future of work

"Between exploitation and self-realization: how will we work in the future?" This is the question that most interested our readers in the eighth round of our research project. The following dossier is intended to answer them.

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  • Work and feel good

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  • The refusal to work

    "Work sucks": Peter Seyferth wanted to make a political career with this slogan. Today he is a freelance philosopher and still refuses to work. At least in your head.

  • How we could work in the future

    Faster, more flexible, more networked: The digital revolution will completely change our work. For better or for worse? Five future visions.

  • Who cares?

    Life today means professional life. But who takes care of the baby, who does the shopping, who looks after the demented aunt when everyone is working so hard? The care sector is bleeding to death due to the economization of society.

  • Why we never clock out

    Work is fun - and work breaks: Today's professional world consumes the whole person. And we go along with it. Why actually?

  • "Office jobs are more threatened than others"

    What happens when smart software and robots equipped with sensors suddenly become competition for humans? Nothing good, says IT expert Martin Ford. A conversation about a future without work.

  • You want to work

    Thousands of refugees currently come to Germany every week. Many of them are well trained. But Germany is not taking advantage of this opportunity. We introduce six people who would love to do nothing more than work here.

  • We exploited

    They work late into the night, shimmy from one fixed-term contract to the next or are terminated when they are sick: SZ readers report grievances in German call centers, hospitals and companies.

  • "We equip employers with cheap human material"

    He is met by single parents who cannot find a job despite having an engineering degree, or migrants who cannot read the contracts they sign: A job placement agent from a Berlin job center grants subjective insights into the Hartz IV system.