On Symptoms of Cultural Industry by Bureau for Open Culture

View of North Adams, Mass., with former textile mill on the left

Bureau for Open Culture has been invited to participate in Open Engagement 2011. We will make a work called On Symptoms of Cultural Industry. It will examine the way North Adams, Massachusetts, and many other cities around the world (including Portland, Oregon) have transitioned from manufacturing goods and materials to manufacturing experiences and knowledge: from Fordist to post-Fordist economic frameworks. The total work will include performance, photography, video, sound and programming.

On Symptoms of Cultural Industry is based on a series of research conversations Bureau for Open Culture is currently conducting with five former employees of the American manufacturing giant Sprague Electric, which operated in North Adams from the late 1930s to 1985. These folks have lived in North Adams for many decades and they worked for Sprague for much of that time. Their stories about the work experience and living in North Adams when the city’s existence was based on a Fordist manufacturing model are incredible. In 1985 Sprague finally shut down due to global competition and changing technologies.

On Symptoms of Cultural Industry will be presented in May in Portland, Oregon, at Open Engagement. It will also be presented in July in North Adams as part of I Am Searching for Field Character, an exhibition series and performance which Bureau for Open Culture will make at MASS MoCA in conjunction with Susan Cross’s exhibition The Workers.

This month on 127 Prince we will chronicle some of our experiences so far with making this work and the general ideas related to changing manufacturing economies as its basis.


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