JILLSCOTT.ORG

Beyond Hierarchy? (2000)

Upon entering the former "Steigerhalle" or Payment centre of the Zeche Zollern II, a historical sweep through the lives of six workers from the Ruhr region can be experienced. Embedded inside the architectural frieze of the high atrium filmed stories become moving murals as if etched permanently into the walls of the building.

Jill Scott presents to the audience's excerpts of the personal lives of Ruhr region workers of the 20th century in form of virtually re-constructed characters. The audiences are invited to meet Sophie, an ammunition factory- worker from 1918, Piotr, a Polish miner from 1932, Lotte, a miners-kitchen worker from 1952, Misha, a Czech car mechanic from 1971, Ahmet, a Turkish worker in the recycling industry from 1983 and Sabine, an electronic technician in the handy assembly line from 1999.

In the installation, the artist has elevated the projection of these characters into the atrium as a metaphor for the ideals all six workers have in common: the desire for better working conditions and an easier lifestyle. For Scott, history is about ordinary people and their levels of collective desires and struggles, an interest she has shown in many earlier works (e.g."Frontiers of Utopia"1995). Actors play the six characters with scripts based on the research of real lives found in oral history archives, books as well as state and film archives from the Ruhr region. In "Beyond Hierarchy", Jill Scott portrays these characters with admiration, capturing their robust and humorous nature as well as some difficult aspects of their working lives.

The audiences find themselves in a fiction film, where individual viewers can choose how much they want to unfold history and how much they want to involve themselves with the idealisms of Ruhr region workers of the 20th century. These characters can also "meet over time" as they can be triggered to have conversations in front of actual documentary footage from famous demonstrations on the streets of Dortmund, Duisburg, Bochum and Essen. In this way "Beyond Hierarchy" provides the public with a Brechtian view of industrial "progress" illustrated by historical examples from the Ruhr region. Industries represented by the workers include the steel and ammunitions factories of the First World War, the mining industries of the 30s to the 50s, the car expansion in the 70s, the invention of recycling in the 80s and finally, the electronic service industries of the 90s.

However, within the installation of "Beyond Hierarchy", two particular senses of irony are prevalent. These senses concern the fact that the chair interfaces offer a different metaphor for the viewer than the secret handshake interface on top of the stairs. Firstly, while sitting in the chairs, the public is in control of the workers through manipulation of the interface. Alternatively, in the secret handshake interface, a simulated handshake of two viewers causes the virtual characters to meet on the street in front of the various famous Ruhr region demonstrations from the 20th century. This action fuses the role of the viewer and that of the filmed workers together on the same hierarchical plane. When this happens, the audience may be surprised to find that some of the workers will stop their work to react in an unusual way.

Beyond Hierarchy changes the hierarchy of the Steigerhalle. The workers used to collect their pay on the bottom level, the level above the stairs housed the Foreman or Steigers utilities. By elevating the worker to the top level above the Foremen's quarters, Jill Scott subverts the hierarchical architecture of the Steigerhalle itself and therefore celebrates the workers ideals. It is through the character of Sabine, 1999 that the audience can also see into the new century. She suggests, that if the Ruhr region wants to attempt to undergo a transformation from manufacture into service based industry, massive re-training programs are required as well as the novel creation of different network based non-hierarchical industry structures.