Australian Video Art Archive

Jill Scott


Beyond Hierarchy?

00:04:45 2000

The viewers entered the so-called Steigerhalle or payment centre of the former coal mine, ‘Zeche Zollern II’ (now a museum of industrial labour), where they saw the images from Beyond Hierarchy? within the frieze of the atrium. These films or ‘moving murals’ seem to be etched into the walls of the building. Here, six twentieth century worker-characters were virtually reconstructed in film segments. These characters were based on real research about workers in the Ruhr. They were Sophie, an ammunition factory-worker in 1918; Piotr, a Polish miner in 1932; Lotte, a miners’ kitchen worker in 1952; Misha, a Czech car mechanic in 1971; Ahmet, a Turkish worker in the recycling industry in 1983 and Sabine, an electronic technician on a mobile phone assembly line in 1999. The script was based on research conducted in oral history archives and film archives of the Ruhr Region in Germany. What all six workers shared is their desire for better working conditions.

I believe history is about ordinary people and their collective and shared desires and struggles. I admired these people, so I tried to capture their robust good humour as well as the difficulty of their working lives. Individual viewers can choose how much they want to see each character and how much they want to edit sequences together. These Ruhr-region workers can also meet ‘across time’ in conversations set against documentary footage from demonstrations on the streets of Dortmund, Duisburg, Bochum and Essen. Beyond Hierarchy? attempts to take a critical Brechtian view of the future of industrial progress. It also tries to comment on the hierarchy within the Steigerhalle’s architecture, as the workers used to collect their pay on the ground floor, while the upper floor housed the foremen’s utilities. The aim was to subvert the hierarchy of the traditional use of the building, by placing the workers’ films ‘on the top’ of the building.

DVD available.