A laboratory to imagine a world without work

With the Post-Laboratory project, German designer Ottonie von Roeder investigates forms and cultural repercussions of a future in which robots work in our place.

Ottonie von Roeder, Post-Labouratory, 4. Istanbul Design Biennial, 2017-2018

“Demand full automation, demand universal basic income, demand the future”. In 2015, philosophers Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams write Inventing the Future, a fundamental book for radical theory that imagines a future in which machines liberate humanity from labour. The text helps us to rethink the value of work and opens a window into the dense cloud of “capitalist realism” claiming there are no valid alternatives to a life dominated by economic profit.

That of full automation seems sometimes a utopia – or dystopia, depending on the point of view –, but every day we can find news that the future is approaching more quickly than we think. Imagining future scenarios therefore becomes not only useful but necessary. And art and design can be outposts of knowledge and incentives to rethink more democratic futures.

In this direction goes German designer Ottonie von Roeder’s research, investigating forms and cultural consequences of a post-work society. The Post-Labouratory project, on show at the 4. Istanbul Design Biennial from September 22nd to November 4th 2018, allows participants to build a low-tech robot that can replace their work activities. Creative sessions are not only used to design these new machines but also to discuss together values, desires and needs of everyday life. It is a small step in a revolution that requires the times of great cultural changes.

One of the first prototypes developed by Ottonie von Roeder

The German designer tells us: “My research aims to explore the transformation of labour. I am interested in the progress of automation, its foreseen impact on society and the chance to turn it into an opportunity for cultural change. Why is the abolition of labour desirable and how could it allow us to overcome existing power structures and the alienation of labour, our day-to-day activity? Let’s explore a post-labour future, the tools to generate the said transition, and possible responses to the emerging cultural and social difficulties.”

Ottonie von Roeder
On show at:
4th Istanbul Design Biennial – “A school of schools”
Opening dates:
22 Semptember – 4 November 2018
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