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Symposium: Art, Labour, and the Future of Work

One of the key distinguishing features of Western modernity is the image of the human being as animal laborans. That is to say that the distinctive activity of labour has always been at the heart of Western humanity’s self-understanding. Work defines who we are.

Now, in the midst of catastrophic climate change and on the verge of massive automation of work that, some sociologists tell us, will lead to the elimination of 80% of the jobs that currently exist, it is necessary to imagine a post-work future. Will such a future afford the possibility of a utopic transition toward labour that resembles play? Or, does a more dystopian future await, in which ever larger portions of the population are reduced to a condition of animality, deemed surplus and, therefore, disposable?

During a two-day symposium presented by SFU’s Institute for the Humanities, artists and philosophers will attempt to understand these questions and more:

  • What role does art and aesthetics play in thinking about the future of labour?
  • What is the relationship between labour and the aesthetic forces of production?
  • How does the artwork exemplify the collapse of people and things in the social replication of work while simultaneously posing an excess and even a form of interruption and autonomy?
  • Will automation in the realm of production further diminish, or will it bolster the dignity accorded to the sensuous realm of social reproduction and emotional labour? 

This is a free event, and no registration is required. All are welcome.


Sat, 03 Mar 2018 - 9:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 - 12:00 PM - 4:00 PM



SFU Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue
580 West Hastings St., Vancouver

Room 470


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