All images are stills from the film: Stefan Römer, ReCoder of Life, 2019; actresses as Reco: Isabella Pedersen and Jennifer Katanyoutanant.
Working notes on an experimental film project²
The protagonist of the film, Reco, works at least 15 hours a day. She optimizes herself for a social media company. You can't really call it working anymore.
Reco hardly notices any difference between her professional and private activities: She does everything online.
Reco feels pleasure at work, but she feels increasingly exploited. She asks herself: Who is exploiting me, since I do it voluntarily?
Reco lives in a world defined by networked computers. She not only spends work and free time at the screen, her whole life is increasingly influenced or even shaped by program structures as well as the possibilities and limitations of apps – so you could say her life and thinking are co-/determined by codes. Added to this is the possibility that all these activities can be recorded and controlled by third parties.
Reco touches her screen instead of skin. Her partners are virtual – skin becomes screen. And vice versa, the screen becomes skin, which she touches more often every day than another person. She even maintains her social life in the screen. Consumer electronics keep us in a soft digital web of excitement and convenience with "virtual friends" and "sex robots." Have we forgotten how to be social?
Reco says to herself: The machines become second nature. Is that what is meant by "imaginary" machines? Reco comes to terms with this post-panoptic intimacy.
Reco asks anew every day: why does this code so convincingly cause so many people to voluntarily expose their selves on the net? What is so fascinating about it? Everyone is doing it, everyone is watching and commenting on each other doing it in the digital pleasure zone in order to optimize themselves.
But for Reco, the central question is whether there can be an autonomous attitude towards this code: It should be located beyond a boycott. Can there then be an outside of postpanoptic control in networking? How can the cultural dominance of the networked computer be critiqued? Do cut-up and hacking still constitute media activist means? What does this system actually comprise at present, how does it represent itself? Can I even perceive myself as an in/dividual separate from it? – She will discuss these questions with Genesis (Breyer) P-Orridge in the third part of the film.
Reco rewrites the code.
1 Excerpt from the essay with the same title in: Stefan Römer, DeConceptualize – Zur Dekonstruktion des Konzeptuellen in Kunst, Film, Musik, Berlin 2022, p. 178–191; and: Birte Kleine-Benne (eds.), Dispositiv-Erkundungen, Berlin 2020. My research was significantly funded by a Research Fellowship at the Centre for Digital Cultures, Leuphana University Lüneburg, 2017-2018; the filming was made possible by Acts of Life. Critical Research Residency Singapore and Manila, Goethe-Institut, MCAD Manila u. NTU CCA Singapore 2018. I would like to express my gratitude for both grants.
2 Screenings: International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, open screening 2019; Dispositiv-Erkundungen, jetzt. Conference, Org.: Prof. Dr. Birte Kleine-Benne, Inst. of Art History, LMU Munich, 29.6.2019; AICA Congress, Berlinische Galerie, 5.10.2019.