Non-work

The idea of non-spaces or in-between spaces is one that seems to crop up a lot. I seem to come across it regularly without looking for it. Most recently I found it in a book called ‘Non-Stop Inertia’ by Ivor Southwood, which I started reading yesterday and finished today. It’s about post-Fordist work and ‘non-work’ conditions: the casualisation of labour, the transformation of unemployment into its own kind of work category, where you can even be fired from the dole (which, of course, isn’t called the dole anymore), and the general precariousness – or precarity – of contemporary work/life. It’s an interesting book, especially because its author is in the position of having to work – live – in the type of poisonous conditions he describes, which gives the writing an open, sort of zine like quality, a grounding in the everyday. Southwood mentions this in the introduction – you don’t read with the bitter knowledge that the author is just participating in some experiment in being broke for the purpose of researching a book or article, later to return to ‘normal’ life: this is normal life. I appreciated it, because I am on the dole at the moment, trapped in exactly the same bipolar frenzy of job-seeking and thumb-twiddling that the book describes. Feeling guilty whenever I am not ‘being productive’ – working, whether in paid employment or on my own projects, or looking for a job or writing exhibition proposals – feeling wound tight and unable to let myself enjoy any sense of leisure because there is nothing to demarcate leisure from work anymore. Feeling like I must always be accruing worth, simultaneously feeling worthless. Feeling depressed, despondent.

On the train home from the MCA where I paid for our booking for the zine fair next week I got stuck in a carriage of school boys whose caps read ‘CBHS’ – Canterbury Boys? Croyden Boys? Wherever they were from, one boy had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Canterbury Bulldogs, and recited all of the grand finals they have ever won to the back of his bored teacher’s head. ‘That’s very interesting’, the teacher said, sarcastically, but the boy didn’t gauge the sarcasm, or didn’t care. He was simply too pleased with his Canterbury fandom to give a damn whether anyone else thought it was important. When he’d finished reciting the list of Canterbury’s grand finals, he started on the names of the teams that they had beaten in those grand finals. I tried to admire his propensity for retaining this highly useless information, and hoped to myself that memorising football results was pushing the neo-liberal school curricula out of his brain, and tried to will the kid to pursue a life of specialised interests and pointless facts that cannot be quantified or serve any purpose in a job interview, and not to let himself feel like he’s being screwed into the dirt by the heel of shitty social consensus, but I couldn’t. Actually, the sound of his voice got on my nerves, and I had to try very hard not to turn around and tell him to shut up.

The teacher was about the same age as me, give or take a couple of years, and had that vague 30ish look – confidence, sadness and resignation. ‘At least you have a job’, I thought, dissecting this for its wrong-headedness even as it formed in my mind. ‘Look at you,’ he might just as easily have been thinking, ‘on a train in the middle of the day, no obligations, no responsibilities – all you have to do is successfully defraud Centrelink, which is, frankly, quite easy, then you’ve got all the time in the world on your hands. You don’t know how to use freedom.’

If only it were as easy as that. And I’m not even the kind of person to think you need heaps of money to get by – I’m DIY, man, anarcho-punk and all the rest of it. But even with these handy critiques of work, productivity, capitalism and the rest of it, I’m not immune.

But anyway, back to my original point –non-places. I partially grew up in a non-place, and I’m going to write a zine about it, because Tim just took a lot of really great photos of the area in question, and I want to do a split zine with him. So, I figure if I write this here it might motivate me to get it done by the MCA zine fair on the 22nd of  May.