on the Organisation and the Unconscious
Yet, within each organisation there is a terrain which cannot be monitored and managed, a terrain where people may engage in less rational, spontaneous activities. In these spaces, emotions prevail over rationality and pleasure over reality. I argue that on the whole, employees take charge of their own destinies by inventing methods of coping that lie outside the formal influences of management, including a withdrawal into the unconscious; a kind of employees’ dream-world in which desires, anxieties and emotions find expressions through irrational constructions. This withdrawal results in a peculiar mixture of the employees’ affective forms of submission and resistance, through jouissance with the organisational rules. In other words, it is neither employees’ conformity nor rebellion, but a symbolical refashioning of the regulated world of work, which I refer to as jouissance.
Gabriel (1995) suggests that the unmanaged organisational spaces form rich, multidimensional, and yet, natural habitat of human subjectivity, ‘revealing the ways the subject is constructed within the organisations’ (p. 479). Hence, in explorations of how post-modern capitalism constitutes and constrains the self, we need to accept the relevance of affective aspects of the embodied organisational relations, those informal and unacknowledged, in the understanding of the rich tapestry that is organisational life.
In this paper, drawing on critical organisational studies and psychoanalytic ideas as applied in contemporary arts, I intend to explore what is suppressed in the organisational context, that is, the unconscious. I explore some effects organisational inertia has on the subjective capacities for labour; that is, how employees survive the boredom, tedium, monotony and powerlessness that characterises many office-based service jobs. I analyse Cracow-based artist, Alicja ¯ebrowska’s video-based work Monitoring (2000), which explores political practice in the organisational realms; dialectic of control-resistance in two service firms: the publishing house and the Internet firm. The video focuses on how employees are organised and normalised as well as it shows how they resist and disrupt these hegemonic social patterns of dominant organisational order.
Strati (1999) points out at the importance of the sensory facultiess and aesthetic judgement in studying of orgnisational life. Judgement here refers to a sixth sense, additional to those of sigt, hearing, smell, touch and taste. Hence, the aesthetics of an organisation, as a materialised product of human action (Gagliardi, 1996, p 565), plays an important role in either influencing or reflecting the perceptions and feelings of individuals within an organisation and their performance. This paper comments and investigates values and symbols that highlight aspects of organisational culture. The artist observes, listens, tests and touches social relations, sentiments that tie individuals to the organisation, artefacts and the spaces in which people work.
I attend to both the world of formal and informal in the organisation, the latter although normally hidden from the gaze of the outsider, is no less real for the participants (employees). Bodies may live independently of organisation, as the body without organs (Deleuze and Guattari, 1988) and, penetrated by creative or unpredictable forces may disrupt and escape the boundaries of organisation. In analysing the video, I explore how the employees survive the alienating tendencies at work by developing various coping mechanisms, through informal processes and actions. Various forms of informal behaviour and survival strategies are represented in the film; that is, making out, fiddling and escaping, as identified by Noon and Blyton (2002), and fantasising. My emphatic knowledge is balanced with the artist’s analytical detachment. As the result an ‘open text’ that describes and evokes organisational dynamics and structures emerges, I refer to this ‘open text’ as an arty meditation on the unconscious and the embodied organisational behaviour.
This study contributes to organisational research on aesthetics and organisation, especially in an area of embodied behaviour, exploring non-cognitive and non-rationalised dimensions of everyday organisational experience. I argue that subjectivity at the workplace needs also to be examined outside participation in, or rejection of controlled practices, through the unconscious where employees’ emotions, desires and anxieties can be expressed more irrationally and freely.
The remainder of the paper is structured as follows. First, I discuss the visibility and invisibility of organisational spaces. Second, drawing on psychoanalytical theory, the unconscious is theorised. Third, in the analysis of ¯ebrowska’s Monitoring I focus on those aspects that, I argue, are helpful to understanding of the unconscious and embodied organisational behaviour: (1) the aesthetics of the office spaces, (2) coping strategies with the organisational routines that incorporate elements of jouissance and (3) representation of embodied aesthetics. Finally, conclusions are presented. Insights which emerge may alert us to what we have missed in a theorisation of organisational field, that is, working of the unconscious in the organisational realms.
Organisational spaces in the office of (non-)existence
The workplace can contribute to those highly condensed psychic textures which allow the employees to be substantially metamorphosed by the structures around. What is produced in the world of work becomes part of objects which form a sense of who we are. This production in modernity was alienating in achieving ends of capitalism (Marx, 1986). In the post-modern capitalism, Marx’s alienated self has been transformed into the post-modern fragmented self which has no core from which to be alienated. Today we have fragmented embodied selves which include within their fragments a self which stand ‘outside’ and observes us. Addressing this issue, and linking an organisation and the unconscious, I intend to reflect on the power that structural conditioning of work implies for organisational behaviour and, what goes as Donald (2001) refers to, behind the mask of organisational rationalism and determinism.
By rendering organisational structures calculable (Miller and O’Leary, 1987), a visibility is created whereby judgements vested in rationality and desirability of mapping out structural and spatial configurations that are deemed more amenable to control and monitoring (e.g. Kosmala MacLullich, 2003; Carmona et al. 2002). These processes involve classification, categorisation and quantification of individuals (employees) and their activities within visible spaces, facilitating ranking of the places and subsequently their hierarchisation. Ranking processes distribute and circulate individuals into the spatial order of structural conditions, separating one from other in a social network. By construing values in a certain way, by objectifying nature to conform, the professional self becomes something other than itself and loses possible values other than its value to phallic (capital) (Shrearer & Arrington, 1993), subordinated to an instrumental rationality, which suppresses and negates all that stands outside of the order that it imposes; the law of economic participation, based on the objectivity of reason. At the individual level, one of the key ideological impacts of organisational aesthetics is the process of subjectification; the ways in which it shapes, defines and controls individual identity to appear small, regular and predictable. The employees’ bodies also appear inseparable from the regulatory norms, in Butler’s terms (1993) it is performative body achieved within citation practices which both enable and discipline subjects; this is who you are; this is what you have made of yourself (p. 2). The aesthetisation of the bodies in organisational settings has been shown to be forms of controls over workers for sometime (Harding, 2003; Hancock and Tyler, 2000; Linstead and Hopfl, 2000). Yet, while justifying under the rationale of efficiency, barren organisational landscapes rarely accomplish effectiveness in the maintenance of the structural and ideological relations of the organisational control (Kersten and Gilardi, 2003). These boundaries of power structures imply a possibility for negotiating and altering spaces with the regulator and others, who try to occupy these (less visible) space in organisations (Hancher and Morgan, 1989).
Organisational structures also incorporate the areas that are permanently or become at times invisible to the ‘gaze’ of control and monitoring processes. Goffman (1997; 1959) argued that enacted aspect of organisational performance in the context of both, what is made visible (front-stage) and what is made invisible (back-stage). In the latter, strategies for a resistance in dealing with the imposed organisational ideology are located. The invisibility of organisational space represents all that which is usually hidden from the monitoring gaze, yet, I argue, which plays an important role in organisational working. Gabriel (1995) refers to these spaces as the unmanaged spaces. By attending to these invisible spaces, by exploring less rational expressions of employees’ feelings and anxieties, we can better understand working of the unconscious and embodied behaviour in the organisational settings.
Burawoy (1979) referred to the labour process as making out, ‘just as playing the game generates consent to its rules, so participating in the choices capitalism forces us to make also consent to its rules, its norms’. Drawing on Burawoy’s notion of the labour process and Zizek’s turn on the unconscious, I explore employees’ jouissance with the organisational rules and structures. Zizek (1989) states that ‘cynical distance is just one way to blind the self from the structuring power of ideological fantasy. Even if we do not take things seriously, even if we keep an ironical distance, we are still doing them’ (p. 32). This ideological fantasy Zizek describes, refers in this paper to the organisational culture with its structural conditions and power relations. Structural conditioning of work is envisaged as fiction, as a construct serving particular groups, whereby the professional ‘character’ is not only integrated, but also staged to the clients and to peers through the construct of ‘serving the client’. In ‘enacting’ organisational rituals (Fleming and Spicer, 2003), employees know they play a role, rather than are allowed to be (Goffman, 1959). Lacan’s conception of jouissance, an unspeakable experience, is also helpful in understanding how this process, Zizek refers to works, in enacting organisational rituals. I argue that employees derive certain pleasure from both abiding by organisational knowledge and the norms of professional conduct and distancing oneself from them.
Ideological subjectification functions to silence other identities and existences. The ideological fantasy and structural mechanisms of regulation repress the ‘otherness’ in the self, as desire is essentially resistant to rationality. This otherness requires ‘free time, free space, and control of one’s body and one’s conduct. It often implies privacy and does not welcome the calculating gaze of the judges of normality’ (Burrell, 1987: 99). The imposition of bureaucratic procedures to control organisational behaviour may on the one hand serve to defend organisational culture and ‘professional jurisdiction’, but on the other, may lead to professional-bureaucratic conflict (Alvesson, 2002), as these procedures threaten the ‘play’ involved in distance to the role in organisation. As a result, the employees may abdicate or deny their own abilities to generate creative ideas or formulate imaginative responses at work (Kersten and Gilardi, 2003, p. 151). Within the technical and political organisational fantasy, individuals not always have the freedom of doing it ‘in their way’. Hence, there is a danger that the structural conditioning of work, the establishment of more rules may lead the replacement of judgement and the diminishment of creativity at work.
There has been little research exploring alternative ways of organising and utilising structural conditioning of working, outside the visible domains. This is perhaps due to a problem with a theorisation of invisibility of spaces in organisations. Attending to working of the unconscious in my explorations of employees’ performative bodies and performative behaviour may be one of the ways to theorise these invisible spaces in organisations.
The unconscious through psychoanalytic lens: Towards
making invisible spaces in organisations more visible
Zizek (2000) takes Lacan’s notion of the unconscious further, arguing that ‘the primordial encounter of the unconscious is the encounter with the other’s inconstancies, with the fact that the (parental) other is not actually the master of his acts and words, that he emits signals of whose meanings he is unaware, that he performs acts he does not fully understand’(p. 284). Our consciousness oscillates in the ontological gap between universal and particular, in the ‘primordial abyss of dis-attachments’, the existential void of the post-modern condition. A sense of alienation, Zizek refers to, is related to Lacanian lack, and further, to a dissatisfaction with representations of reality, which in this paper is illustrated by the ideological fantasy of the organisation.
Lacan equated the real with what Freud called ‘psychic reality’. This ‘psychic reality’ is not simply the inner psychic life of dreams, wishes and so on, as opposed to perceived external reality of the working environment, but the ‘hard core of primordial passionate attachments’ (Zizek, 2000: 274). In other words, Lacanian fantasy is on the side of reality, that is, it sustains the subject’s sense of reality while facilitating jouissance with that reality. ¯ebrowska in her video Monitoring comments that what we repress in the organisational realms is not our memory but the fantasy derived from it and/or subtending it.
Monitoring invites the viewer for an inner journey into the realms of office spaces to visualise how the employees cope with alienating tendencies at work. This coping process refers to Lacanian notion of traversing fantasy (1998). Traversing fantasy is not getting rid of fantasies and illusionary preconceptions which distorts our view of reality, and finally, learning to accept reality the way it is, giving into the organisational rituals. Instead, in traversing fantasy we identify with the work of our imagination even more radically, in all its inconsistencies, through both resistance and consent to the rules, through different forms of ‘escaping into work’ (Knights & McCabe, 1999). Structural conditions masks the ‘experienced reality of organisation which operates to provide a comforting sense of security and to defer action which may threaten the status quo’ (Jackson and Carter, 1998, p.180). When the phantasmic ideological frame disintegrates (a consent to the organisational realms), we undergo a ‘loss of reality’ and start to perceive reality as an ‘unreal’ nightmarish universe with no firm ontological foundation.
What can form a defence-formation against this ‘primordial abyss of dis-attachments’? This question brings us back to Freud and his distinction between two instinctive drives, libidinal energy (life-producing instinct) and the death instinct, or a need to return to a state of calmness (Jones, 1961). What ‘dis-attachment’ refers to here is the death drive which ‘throws’ the order of being ‘out of joint’, and results in a withdrawal from being immersed in the world in its structures, here the organisational ideology. This withdrawal can happen through the encounter with jouissance; a withdrawal which manifests itself in an enactment of death drive while performing organisational rituals, through cognitive and affective aspects of escape from alienating tendencies at work.
Why Monitoring is insightful in representing working of the unconscious in the organisational realms? The relevance of psychoanalysis for contemporary art practice is that artists, as experts in visualisation, can significantly alter and progress otherwise intransigent assumptions about the unconscious, about the spatial and symbolic relations of ego to the other. The artists seek ways to account for the irrepressible figurality of language, to go beyond the language as it betrays the operations of desire and fantasy. ¯ebrowska, an artist ‘obsessed’ with imagination in its pre-ontological dimension, seeks to reframe spaces of human subjectivity. This re-framing is what Lichtenberg Ettinger (1996) has re-theorised in terms of a matrix, of spaces of the ‘I and non-I’ . This matrix is a feminine unconscious space of simultaneous co-emergence and co-fading of the I and the stranger that is neither fused nor rejected (pp. 89-90). Links between several joint partial subjects co-emerging in differentiation in rapports-without-relating, and connections with their hybrid objects, produce/interlace '[wo]man’ that is not confined to the contours of the one-body with its inside versus outside polarity, and indicate a sexual difference based on webbing of links and not on essence of negation (1995, pp. 91-96).
In Monitoring, ¯ebrowska attempts to visualises these invisible places of the ‘I and non-I’ in the organisational milieu. She traces the constrained self, the invasion of the organisational systems and its politics into private (unconscious) spaces, into the matrix. She attempts to get back to the forgotten sensual interpretation of the symbol in our being, negotiating its existence in a relation to the accepted organisational norms and policies. In visualising the working of the unconscious in the organisations, ¯ebrowska comments on workers’ exploitations in the contemporary service firm.
The artist situates her interests in what Lichtenberg Ettinger (1996) referred to as the subsymbolic, in the space that coverage with the path of fantasy, the ‘pre-ontological’ dimension. She argues that, although our psyche is constructed, to become a subject means to retrace links with the representation of the female body and fantasy. She calls the subsymbolic a stratum of subjectivity that is not at all orchestrated in relation to phallus, though it exists side by side with a phallic stratum (what Lacan saw as the primal, pre-natal stage of ego formation). In other words, the subsymbolic encompasses links and relations; the symbolic network is constituted by pre-Oedipal and prenatal inscriptions. This theory gives symbolic form to the contribution to human subjectivity produced in a relation to or made by the invisible specificity of the body as it enters into archaic sensations and fantasies through aesthetic affects and effects (pp. 91 and 110) . This approach allows entering the invisible spaces of organisational live.
The artist’s attempt is to mobilise reflection on working of the unconscious in the viewer; through creating and suggesting multiple possibilities infused with the employees’ senses, where the phantasms of desires interface with the pressure of conscious thought; in the organisational spaces where the self dialogues with itself seeking to find a coherence.
¯ebrowska, by focusing on the body in the social space of the firm and out of that space, in dreamscapes, stimulates reflections on the embodied organisational behaviour; the ways the body is viewed and represented in the organisational realms. Passing beyond the rules governing here and now, and structural conditioning of work, ¯ebrowska traces an encounter with the employees’ (un)altered states through fantasy and (day)dreaming. By doing so, she re-constructs collective utterances of what can be understood as the unconscious in the organisation.
The viewer ‘enters’ the (un)altered states of the organisational spaces; the barren spaces rigidly controlled in order to maintain an excessive conscientiousness in the employees. The artist explores different ways in which the occupants of organisational spaces can and do resist the imposed meaning of organisational architectural design of the office space, thus she ‘highlights the politics of reception’ (Barris, 1999). As viewers we become aware of on-going monitoring the accuracy of appearance and maintaining behavioural perfectionism. The mind that is in the bodies appears disciplined, rational and organised (Johnson, 1987). The film also shows how the employees resist their encultured and commodified status. ¯ebrowska visualises an escape from the organisational routines, through a visualisation of the employees’ inner journeys, into dream-worlds. I interpret this by means of a Lacanian notion of traversing fantasy. Insights with regard to the established order of what is represented and representable, what is visible and invisible emerges.
The motivation behind this work was to reveal not only the structural condition in the contemporary firm, but also to comment upon its living social organism. The video is a synthesis of the separate recordings of working in the open plan offices of the service firms; publishing house and the Internet firm. The footage of the office interior was filmed both openly with the small camcorders and with the hidden cameras. The images of the office interior are juxtaposed with the images the artist’s body, filmed in her house.
Now I will analyse three particular aspects of ¯ebrowska’s Monitoring which I argue are helpful to understanding of the unconscious and embodied organisational behaviour. First, the aesthetics of the office spaces is explored. Second, different coping strategies with the organisational routines that incorporate elements of jouissance are discussed; making up, fiddling, escaping and fantasising. Third, I explore how ¯ebrowska attends to embodied aesthetics in the organisational context.
The office spaces
The employees appear complicitous in that they internalise the images around them. This is how organisations, through appearances, educate and shape the employees perceptive faculties, ‘senses of taste, smell, touch, hearing as well as sight’ (Garliardi, 1996, p. 573), developing a particular sense of what is appropriate in the organisational settings. The close-up images of the flashing computer monitors and beaming cold lighting around underline impersonality of the office interior. The intensified sound of the computer noise in the background, reminiscent of a swarm of buzzing bees, is absorbed by the employees. A mechanisation of work and computerisation has lodged into the working unconscious that alters organisational behaviour. The employees emerge in a stark light, as commodified and at times even reduced to impotence. The organisation-as-body is not enfleshed, it is an organ without bodies (Dale and Burrell, 2000, p. 21; Deleuze and Guattari, 1988).
Yet, the organisation only appears as a harmony and order. The open office as represented in the video heralds on a physical expression of openness and connectedness, yet, proves to be susceptible to enhanced surveillance and control.
The open space office design can be envisaged more as ideological expression of organisational culture. It creates an illusion of efficiency and order that controls employees, the way it defines places and contains them physically and symbolically. Prior studies of open office spaces did not consistently demonstrate the enhanced communication on the part of occupants of such offices. Also, it was found that the actual use of space often led to a reinstitution of hierarchical relations and consistent attempts on the part of employees to recreate a sense of privacy, private space and containment that opposed the open office ideal (Hatch, 1990).
The office is vested in appearing efficient, orderly, and controlled for it is this ideological image that conceals the underlying reality of the organisation. There is a need for the organisation to ‘look good’ as it highlights the existing culture or preferred image thereof, it impresses the client and advances the need for enhance productivity and quality of services.
The office aesthetics aside of rhetorical has also an expressive function. In the video, the viewer acknowledges how employees surround their office desks and the spaces near the PC screens with their personal gadgets, photographs, graffiti and cartoons; the symbolic landmarks of the organisational fantasy. The rejection of the ‘office aesthetisation’ can be envisaged as a form of resistance.
Survival strategies: Escapes from the organisational
The reflexive turn in this work also lies in the visualisation of how this passivity is ‘internalised’. The alienation of the worker means not only that his labour becomes an object, an external existence, but that it exists outside him, independently as something alien and yet fragmentary. The viewer experiences alienation in the corporate context.
Working of the organisation is depicted as a dream-like state which give the unconscious of the employees unimpeded passage to escape the alienating tendencies the work environment produces. ¯ebrowska reveals how thorough a series of games the employees play to beat the system, finding angles and loopholes in the structural conditions of working, this partly refers to Burawoy’s notion of ‘making out’ (1979), an impulse for a passing of working time and the relief of boredom or a release of tension.
Making out involves working within constrains of the rules. The film also reveals instances of fiddling at work, that is breaking the rules as an expression of frustration and/or resentment; ‘a way of hitting out at the boss, the company, the system and the state’ (Mars, 1982, p. 23). The employees are represented in the film as manipulating the management’s rules for their own ends, but without maliciously challenging these rules. The viewer becomes aware of the employees making private phone calls during the office hours, surfing on Internet at work, reading books and newspapers and taking a day off sick for no obvious reason. These are instances of fiddling which symbolically represent a source of psychological gain to individual employees, responding to aspects of their jobs and those in authority over them.
¯ebrowska also visualises means of escaping from work; this escape is not merely physical, it is also mental. The former is represented by temporal absence from work whilst the latter by withdrawing into owns thoughts and fantasises. The images of man reading newspapers, people surfing online, sound of private phones are at contrast with the images of ‘perfect’ working routine. Hence, although the employees may appear as just playing the game of making out, they de facto adapt to the alienating tendencies of the work environment. They may submit to management’s cultural indoctrination but they also resist it, by developing their own spin on organisational culture, by jouissance, the symbolic play with regulation. This results in detachment from work, fantasising, whipping up commitment and enthusiasm.
Fantasising in organisations studies is interpreted either as a form of escapism, reinforcing conformity or as a primal form of an opposition, leading to resistance. These interpretations, as Gabriel (1995) pointed out, steer fantasy and its products back to the control-resistance dialectic and the privileged domain of the managed organisation. In Monitoring, however, the alternative ways of survival strategy are at work, through fantasy which is envisaged as a symbolic refashioning of the organisational ideology. The passage to the unconscious, through fantasy, facilitates the patterns of resistance in both thought and activity as well as contributes to the processes of employees’ dis-identification with the organisation and the self. The employees’ day-dreams are the products of psyche which results in pleasure, allowing a temporary supremacy of emotion over rationality and un-control over control. These dreams emerge out of the engagement with unconscious desires, as a form of escape fantasy and as jouissance with the rules, through symbolic refashioning of surrounding reality.
Fantasising in the video is visualised as sexual pleasure. This is how, in the world of the ‘decline of Oedipus’, late capitalist markets, through the mediated desires, we follow the superego’s injunction to enjoy, jouissance with the organisational routines. In the video, a sense of existential void is exacerbated by the scenes of fantasising (im)passive submissions (instances of playing with cyberspace and reshaping symbolic identity through virtual fantasies). It appears that the direct intervention of death drive (sado-masochistic fantasises of sexual practices) is found through a path to the intense experience of pleasure. The real here is the impossible; that is, being in the organisational context. Fantasy or a defence-formation against the ‘primordial abyss of dis-attachments’, traces a loss of support in being which is the subject itself, outside the stage of the ‘big other’, a corporation. These are the instances of the most passive of the informal behaviours, yet, they comment upon the accommodation of various aspects of the estrangement that constitutes alienation at work.
An excess of pleasure in pain can be envisaged as an aspect of sexualisation (Bersani, 1986). Through fantasy, the employees imagine or re-live the scenes of submission to the organisational ideology; instead of being the agent of a real interaction, become passive observers of these ‘inner’ scenes. Laplanche (1976) has argued that to fantasise pain and submission is to turn these emotions around upon oneself, such as for instance the images of auto-erotism in which the indissoluble bond between fantasy and the unconscious is confirmed. It is visualised in the film with the flash, the repeated image of the wired with the cables vagina and the images of masturbating with the vibrator.
These forms of escapisms are characterised by highest degrees of deplacement, powerlessness and alienation. The powerlessness that is profoundly solipsistic, in ways that only exists in dreams. The individual is here colluding in own impressions. ¯ebrowska asks whether desires can be ‘mine’, whether desires can trace inner longings or is it the imaginary seduction of consumerism that traps and absorbs the fantasy. The masturbating woman in the video is isolated and helpless. These are representations of the solipsistic qualities of the day-dream, enacted at work in the silenced social spaces.
From product advertisement to annual reports, recruitment brochures and companies web pages increasingly the emphasis is placed on the right image, to look good and to make strong impression in order to achieve market advantages (Hancock, 2003, p. 180). In the film, the manager’s body is denounced, as far as humanly possible of what Harding (2003) refereed to ‘all references to flesh and to nature’ (p. 120), a subordination of flesh to organisational aesthetics, so that his lived body becomes constituted within the organisational space. He appear clean, shaved and as much as possible hidden in his suits. His clean and shaved chin demonstrates the suppression of nature and its elision from the controlled managerial world.
The relatively fixed and conservative system of clothing (suit-based) is an outward sign of the strictness of the manager’s adherence to the social code. His tie, a phallic mark that only symbolises the fundamental feature of his sexual nature, appears to have little practical value as the manger is playing with it. His clothing allows the detachment of the male body more and more from sexuality, but at the same time, it constructs masculine sexuality through its phallic representations (Silverman, 2000). Being suited, shaved and clean represents a political desire for the abstract ideal of masculine norm. The manager cannot escape from the aesthetics of the managerial body. He sees himself in a mirror and sees himself as manager; this is how the conformity and obedience is achieved, through looking in one’s reflection.
The manager is imprisoned within a conservative aesthetics that locks him within what Harding (2003) refers to the ’ever-recycled rules and the cultures of early twentieth century organisation’ (p. 127). This is a role of dressage as means discipline and taming (Jackson and Carter, 1998). The manger puts the tie every morning in front of the mirror every morning, dressing him up as a manager, inscribing upon this be-suited body the aesthetic of order, thus becomes inscribed within a discourse of self-control, which can be symbolised aesthetically through the peculiar artwork of the managerial body.
Despite being in suit, his nature is still there and can never be totally suppressed. Harding (2003) argues that the suit and the tie, in demonstrating both at once rigid controls and signs of sexuality which always threatens to break through, can allow manager to claim the potential for rampant sexuality ‘look at the size of that tie!!’ (p. 122) and the ability to subordinate and control it (see Image 4). For in the accomplishment of managing his own body, the manager displays his ability to manage others and in occupying the privileged body designations of the manager, his ability to display the body in a manner that is culturally acceptable to the organisation’s body code (Kerfoot, 2000). Hancock and Tyler (2000) have shown how mangers in case of air stewardesses use the aesthetics of bodies to achieve organisational ends. Harding (2003) argued that managers’ bodies, too, embody the desired effect of the company, for they signify the behaviour that is expected of employees, being seen to ‘walk and talk’. The film reveals that the production of the own body is one of the major tasks of organisational embodied behaviour.
The final scene of the video, depicts the managing director on his suit in his office chair. The subsequent image, the movement of ‘gazing’ ventilators against the choral music emphasises the ‘hyper-mysticism’ of the corporate leader, his power and control in monitoring everything and everyone. As Burawoy (1979) argued the labour process under the advanced capitalism should not be seen only in terms of management’s control over employees but as a means through which employees are persuaded potentially to consent to their own subordination, thereby co-operating with management overall objectives. Here ¯ebrowska shifts the focus of analysis away from the control towards consent.
What seems to be folded within the manager’s body is the organisation itself. Knowledge of directing, managing and monitoring the employees performance are left unravelled to the viewer. This tactic is reminiscent of Kafka’s parable of the door of the law where the entrance to the palace of the law is staged only to the gaze of the visitor. The Castle is an archetype of all organisations, describing their basic functions in the same way that those of the inner organs of the body would be. The manger appears facing two competing pressures; a need to control and direct employees to ensure that the performance targets are met, as well as a requirement to gain co-operation of the employees in meeting those targets. However, it might be argued that manager disguises his dependence on the workforce. By emphasising the visible forms of the supervision and by the empowerment, he engages in more subtle attempts to obscure the exploitative nature of the labour process, and particularly a commodity status of the labour. He himself becomes a gazing ventilator.
The poetic motion of these ‘gazing’ ventilators reveal that each reality, here corporate reality, has its ‘spirit’, its mechanism of working. The instances of anthropomorphisation in the video (the beehive system, gazing ventilators) go beyond, what Doving (1996) refers to a status metaphor.
The film reveals different strategies that employees adopt in dealing with the alienating tendencies of work, such as making out, fiddling, escaping both into work and from work, fantasising. These strategies ‘occupy’ temporarily or permanently ‘unofficial’ and ‘informal’ organisational spaces. The employees enact daily these alternative behaviours in order to make up for the aspects of working routines. The film demonstrates the importance of looking below the surface of appearances, into the depth of psyche in the embodied behaviour, its complex and fragmented patterns of action and associated meanings.
We learn how organisational controls are ‘evaded’ by the employees’ coping strategies and how subjectivity can be restored in its multiple meanings and unpredictability. The artist traces staging the phantasmic core of being, through daydreaming and jouissance. As a result, the work may be performed in an automated-like fashion, relying on the internalised routines which in a sense, act to free the employee to concentrate on thoughts and emotions outside the work.
The imagination emerges as a form of experience, the imagination perceived as the ability to conjure images of absent or non-existing spaces through fantasy. The artist comes here with the attitude of making the employee visible in the firm, through her monitoring (hence the title Monitoring which appears at the end of the video) and going ‘behind’, to see whether there may be something behind, something there which can be seen and is not.
All instances of withdrawals from the organisational realms represented in Monitoring, reflect the ways of coping with work that accommodate the existing circumstances that employees face everyday. Perhaps this can be the only way of coping for some service sector workers, to go beyond an appearance of the proper and positive façade. What emerges are insights that in order to ‘survive’ working, people are obliged to become resourceful and creative in developing these survival strategies that allow some control over, and constructs meanings for, the work activities they are oriented by managers to undertake. The film reveal how, caught in between, the employees mediate through self-effacing gestures the ‘pre-ontological chaotic multitude’ into the semblance of a positive ‘objective’ order of what reality is (Zizek, 2000, p.158), the ‘objective’ of appearing as the professional, of being the professional. The film depicts work as ‘a struggle for survival’, at times, as a fatal mixture of consent and resistance to management’s monitoring gaze. A complex picture emerges which requires the analysis of work environments to incorporate a plurality of interpretations, experiences and behaviours, including these behaviours that emerge out of the invisible organisational spaces. This is how this work can be seen, as the jigsaw puzzles put together in the writing-back process of the mapped suppressed-self.
The film forces us to question the unreflective and supposedly ‘common sense’ understandings of embodied organisational behaviour. In particular, it contributes critical reading of organisational spaces that highlights appearance and reality of the office existence. It also contributes to growing research on the management of both environmental and embodied aesthetics which can be understood as a mechanism of employees’ control through the ‘positive cultivation of certain sensuous values that directly express or realise the organisational presence demanded’ (Witkin, 1990, p. 332).
The video is a meditation on the corporate regime and utopia of overcoming the opposition between the alienated corporate world, where one exists to earn money, and the private pleasures that one pursues outside, often alone, behind the computer screens. It is a subjective reflection on the polarity of human existence in the contemporary condition of the post-modern capitalist world and its alienating organisational forms.
Barris, R. (1999). The constructivist engaged spectator: a politics of reception. Design Issues, 5, 31-49.
Barthes, R. (1975). The pleasure of the text. New York: Hill and Wang.
Bersani, L. (1986). Freudian body: psychoanalysis and art. New York: Columbia University Press.
Briner, R. (1999). The neglect and importance of emotion at work. European Journal o Work and Organisational Psychology, 8, 323-346.
Burawoy, M. (1979). Manufacturing consent: changes in the labour process under monopoly capitalism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Burrell, G. (1987). No accounting for sexuality. Accounting, Organisations and Society, 12(1), 89–101.
Butler, J. (1997). Psychic life of power. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Butler, J. (1993). Bodies that matter. New York: Routledge.
Cramona, S., Ezzamel, M. and Gutierrez, F. (2002). The relationship between accounting and spatial practices in the factory. Accounting, Organisations and Society, 27, 239-274.
Dale K. and Burrell G. (2000). What shape are we in? Organisation theory and organised body. In Hassard, R. Holliday, R. and Willmott, H. (Eds.), Body and organisation. London: Sage.
Deleuze G. and Guattari F. (1988) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Dickinson P. and Svensen N. (2000). Beautiful corporations: corporate style in action. London: Prentice Hall.
Donald, I. (2001). Emotion and office at work. In Payne, R. and Cooper C. (Eds.), Emotions at work: theory, research and applications for management. New York: Wiley.
Doving E. (1996). In the image of man: organisational action, competence and learning. In Grant D. and Oswick E. (Eds.), Metaphor and organisation. London: Sage.
Fleming, P. & Spicer, A. (2003). Working at a cynical distance: implications for power, subjectivity and resistance. Organisation, 10(1), 157–179.
Freud, S. (1994). The interpretation of dreams. Modern Library Ed. Toronto: Random House Inc.
Gabriel, Y. (1995). The unmanaged organisation: stories, fantasies and subjectivity. Organisation Studies, 16(3): 477-501.
Garliardi, P. (1996). Exploring the aesthetic side of organisational life. In Clegg S. Hardy C. and Nord W. (Eds.), Handbook of organisational studies. London: Sage.
Goffman, E. (1997). The Goffman reader. Oxford: Balckwell.
Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of the self in everyday life. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Hancher, L. and Morgan, M. (1989). Organising regulatory space. Capitalism culture and regulation, Oxford: Claredon Press.
Hancock P. (2003). Aestheticizing the world of organisation – creating beautiful untrue things. In Carr A. and Hancock P. (Eds.), Art and aesthetics at work. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Hancock P. and Tyler M. (2000). The look of love: gender and the organisation of aesthetics. In Hassard, R. Holliday, R and Willmott, H. (Eds.), Body and organisation. London: Sage.
Harding N. (2003). On the manager’s body as an aesthetics of control. In Carr A. and Hancock P. (Eds.), Art and aesthetics at work, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Hatch M. (1990). The symbolism of office design: an empirical exploration. In Gagliardi, P. (Ed.), Symbols and artefacts: views of the corporate landscapes. Berlin: de Gruyter.
Jackson N. and Carter P. (1998). Labour and dressage. In McKinlay A. and Starkey K. (Eds.), Foucault, management and organisational theory. London: Sage.
Jones, E. (1961). The life and works of Sigmund Freud. New York: Basic Books.
Johnson M. (1987). The body in the mind: the bodily basis of meaning, imagination and reason. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Kerfoot D. (2000). Body work: estrangement, disembodiment and the organisational
other. In Hassard, R. Holliday, R and Willmott, H. (Eds.), Body and
organisation. London: Sage.
Knights D. and McCabe D. (1999). Are there no limits to authority? TQM and organisational power. Organisation Studies, 3, 22.
Kosmala MacLullich K. (2003). The emperor’s ‘new’ clothes? New audit regimes: insights from Foucault’s technologies of the self. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 14 (8), 791-811.
Lacan J. (1998). On jouissance. In The seminar of Jacques Lacan: on feminine sexuality. The limits of love and knowledge book XX encore 1972-1973. New York: Norton and Co.
Laplanche, J. (1976). Life and death in psychoanalysis. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Lichtenberg Ettinger, B. (1996). The with-in-visible screen. In de Zeghel M. C. (Ed), Inside the visible: an elliptical traverse of 20th century art. Cambridge: The MIT Press.
Lichtenberg Ettinger B. (1995). Metramorphic borderlinks and matrixial borderspace. In Welchman J. (Ed.), Rethinking borders. London: Macmillan.
Linstead S and Hopfl H. (Eds.) (2000). The aesthetics of organisation. London: Sage.
Mars G. (1982). Cheats at work. London: Allen and Unwin.
Marx K. (1986). Karl Marx: a reader (Elster J. Ed.) Cambridge; Cambridge University Press.
Miller, P. and O’Leary, T. (1987) Accounting and the construction of the governable person. Accounting, Organisations and Society, 12(3), 235–266.
Noon M and Blyton, P. (2002). The realities of work, 2nd Ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
Shearer, T. and Arrington, E. (1993). Accounting in other worlds: feminism without reserve. Accounting, Organisations and Society, 18(2/3), 253–272.
Silverman D. (2000). Routine, pleasure: the aesthetics of the mundane. In Linstead S. and Hopfl H. (Eds.), The aesthetics of organisation. London: Sage.
Strati, A. (1999) Organisation and Aesthetics London: Sage.
Witkin R. (1990). The aesthetic imperative of rational-technical machinery: a study in organisational control through design of artefacts. In Gagliardi, P. (Ed.), Symbols and artefacts: views of the corporate landscapes, Berlin: de Gruyter.
Zizek, S. (2000). The ticklish subject: the absent centre of political ontology. London: Verso.
Zizek, S. (1989). The sublime object of ideology. London: Verso.