New Fordist Manifesto
We live in a time of crisis.
Therefore, our art should reflect that crisis.
This crisis is an economic one, therefore our reflection and response should be economic.
Many years ago Baumol and Bowen posited that there was an endemic “cost-disease” in the performing arts. They theorized that this had occurred due to the interconnected nature of the labor markets that had forced increases in wages in the performing arts. This increase in artistic wages was unconnected to an increase in “productivity” - physical output per work hour, resulting in a “productivity lag” and the problem of “financing the performing arts in the face of ineluctably rising unit costs”. As James Heilbrun explains:
“Productivity is defined by economists as physical output per work hour. Increases in productivity over time may occur for the following reasons:
(1) increased capital per worker,
(2) improved technology,
(3) increased labour skill,
(4) better management, and
(5) economies of scale as output rises.
As this list suggests, increases in productivity are most readily achieved in industries that use of a lot of machinery and equipment. In such industries output per worker can be increased either by using more machinery or by investing in new equipment that embodies improved technology. As a result, in the typical manufacturing industry the amount of labour time needed to produce a physical unit of output declines dramatically decade after decade. The live performing arts are at the other end of the spectrum. Machinery, equipment and technology play only a small role in their production process and, in any case, change very little over time.”
"Baumol's Cost Disease", James Heilbrun, “A Handbook of Cultural Economics” Ed. Ruth Towse (Massachusetts, 2003), 103
The New Fordist Organization plan to create real increases in productivity in the performing arts by improving all five of the points above in relation to the performing arts:
(1) Increased capital per worker
(2) Improved Technology
(3) Increased labour skill,
(4) Better management, and
(5) Economies of scale as output rises.
The increase in industrial productivity came from an increase in output that was frequently connected with an improvement in technology.
The New Fordist Organization posits that the failure of the performing arts to keep up with the equivalent productivity of the industrial sector has occurred due to the failure of those in the performing arts, to take advantage of the industrial organization of working, and the developments in new technology.
Due to a model of artistic creation that is mired in, and crippled by, its ties to the 19th Century, the complete re-formulation of artistic production necessary to prevent a loss in productivity, has failed to take place. The New Fordist Ensemble aims to enable this re-formulation to happen.
Technology and mass-production are the tools for this much-needed revolution.
We have reached a stage in which the algorithmic generation of art-works is becoming increasingly viable, thus reducing the need for man-power, stream-lining and speeding-up production, and increasing productivity.
When this is coupled to a mass-productive way of arranging the generation of artworks (similar to what is already practised in the symphony orchestra, to great effect), the actual increase in productivity can run parallel to that of the other industries, as the deep reliance on technology allows for an artwork that is only limited, and runs concurrent to, advances in technology.
Mass production is not the subjugation of the worker to the mechanical system, but the tool of their freedom:
“Taylorism supposedly produces a gap between manual labour and the "human content" of work. On this subject some useful observations can be made on the basis of past history and specifically of those professions thought of as amongst the most intellectual, that is to say the professions connected with the reproduction of texts for publication or other forms of diffusion and transmission : the scribes of the days before the invention of printing, compositors on hand presses, linotype operators, stenographers and typists. If one thinks about it, it is clear that in these trades the process of adaptation to mechanisation is more difficult than elsewhere. Why ? Because it is so hard to reach the height of professional qualification when this requires of the worker that he should "forget" or not think about the intellectual content of the text he is reproducing : this in order to be able, if he is a scribe, to fix his attention exclusively on the calligraphic form of the single letters ; or to be able to break down phrases into "abstract" words and then words into characters, and rapidly select the pieces of lead in the cases ; or to be able to break down not single words but groups of words, in the context of discourse, and group them mechanically into shorthand notation;
or to acquire speed in typing, etc. The worker's interest in the intellectual content of the text can be measured from his mistakes. In other words, it is a professional failing. Conversely his qualification is commensurate with his lack of intellectual interest, i.e. the extent to which he has become "mechanised". The mediaeval copyist who was interested in the text changed the spelling, the morphology and the syntax of the text he was copying ; he missed out entire passages which because of his meagre culture he could not understand; the train of thoughts aroused in his mind by his interest in the text led him to interpolate glosses and observations ; if his language or dialect was different from that of the text he would introduce nuances deriving from his own speech : he was a bad scribe because in reality he was "remaking" the text. The slow speed of the art of writing in the Middle Ages explains many of these weaknesses : there was too much time in which to reflect, and consequently "mechanisation" was more difficult. The compositor has to be much quicker; he has to keep his hands and eyes constantly in movement, and this makes his mechanisation easier. But if one really thinks about it, the effort that these workers have to make in order to isolate from the often fascinating intellectual content of a text (and the more fascinating it is the less work is done and the less well) its written symbolisation, this perhaps is the greatest effort that can be required in any trade. However it is done, and it is not the spiritual death of man. Once the process of adaptation has been completed, what really happens is that the brain of the worker, far from being mummified, reaches a state of complete freedom. The only thing that is completely mechanicised is the physical gesture ; the memory of the trade, reduced to simple gestures repeated at an intense rhythm, "nestles" in the muscular and nervous centres and leaves the brain free and unencumbered for other occupations. One can walk without having to think about all the movements needed in order to move, in perfect synchronisation, all the parts of the body, in the specific way that is necessary for walking. The same thing happens and will go on happening in industry with the basic gestures of the trade. One walks automatically, and at the same time thinks about whatever one chooses. American industrialists have understood all too well this dialectic inherent in the new industrial methods. They have understood that "trained gorilla" is just a phrase, that "unfortunately" the worker remains a man and even that during his work he thinks more, or at least has greater opportunities for thinking, once he has overcome the crisis of adaptation without being eliminated : and not only does the worker think, but the fact that he gets no immediate satisfaction from his work and realises that they are trying to reduce him to a trained gorilla, can lead him into a train of thought that is far from conformist. That the industrialists are concerned about such things is made clear from a whole series of cautionary measures and "educative" initatives which are well brought out in Ford's books and the work of Philip.
"Americanism And Fordism", Antonio Gramsci, “Prison Notebooks” pg 309-311
However, this freedom comes at a price:
It seems clear that the new industrialism wants ... the man as worker not to squander his nervous energies in the disorderly and stimulating pursuit of occasional sexual satisfaction. The employee who goes to work after a night of "excess" is no good for his work. The exaltation of passion cannot be reconciled with the timed movements of productive motions connected with the most perfected automatism
"Americanism And Fordism", Antonio Gramsci, “Prison Notebooks” pg 305
New Fordism requires the complete subsumption of sexual desire to the creative act. To this end, New Fordism proposes the extension of the existing Church of New Music to become the Church Of New Art – an organization premised on a religious fervour, commitment, and vow of celibacy.
New Fordism takes the great industrial system of Henry Ford as a methodology for making art.
We attempt to beat the endemic “Cost Disease” in the performing arts by using technology and industrialization to produce work of real value.