In a recent project ‘Err,’ artist Jeremy Hutchinson sent emails to factories around the world, requesting that one of their production line workers produced an ‘incorrect’ version of their product. How exactly the product would be changed would be entirely up to the worker. He tells Creative Review,
“I asked them to make me one of their products, but to make it with an error. I specified that this error should render the object dysfunctional. And rather than my choosing the error, I wanted the factory worker who made it to choose what error to make. Whatever this worker chose to do, I would accept and pay for.”
Some workers interpreted this by frustrating the product’s intended utility, often by filling in otherwise functional gaps. A comb without teeth; a teapot with a blocked spout; an unpackable pipe; sunglasses with no space for a nose. Another approach took away essential components to produce a ladder with most of its rungs missing, or a trumpet with some tubing removed. Others yet gleefully destroyed and misassembled the factory object to produce a sharded plastic pile of chair pieces, or a disjointed shovel that was set like badly healed bones.
[Err is] about creating deliberate miscommunication, forging a moment of poetry within a hyper-efficient system of digital exchange. It’s about an invisible global workforce, and their connection to the relentless regurgitation of stuff. It’s about Duchamp and the readymade, but updated to exist within the context of today’s globalised economy. It’s about the rub between art and design, the mass-produced and unique, the functional and the dysfunctional.”
These 17 disfunctional objects are displayed among reams of confused email and Skype conversations as well as customs and shipping documents and variously labeled packaging; herein lies the most interesting aspect of the installation An artist interview at we make money not art reveals that in Pakistan it is “illegal” to fabricate incorrect products. Commissioning “artworks,” however becomes permissable. Following Magritte, then is it enough simply to state, this is not a factory reject. It is an artwork to dislodge the enchantments of capital? And by participating in this project, do the workers manage to disalienate their labour and disrupt the logic of capitalist production? Preferably via a dialectical assembly line montage, to the gentle shuffling of Nouvelle Vague? Probably not.
In the same wmmna interview, Hutchinson addresses this neatly, explaining
“I don’t think it’s my job to take a moral stance on things – more to ask energetic questions. So rather than reinforce pre-existing arguments (e.g. capitalism / anti-capitalism), I wanted to see what would happen if you lodged nonsense into the mechanics of a hyper-efficient global machine. To manufacture error.
An intentional error is a strange idea – illogical, oxymoronic. And fundamentally human. So in some ways, Err is simply a continuation of this worker’s gesture. It’s a moment of respite from the endless repetition of the global production line.
Still, this rupture of the mass-produced commodity was kind of satisfying for the workers involved, as one of the email exchanges show: