Part Three / Screening: On trash collectors and Michael Jackson impersonators

Part Three
Screening: On trash collectors and Michael Jackson impersonators

Tulapop Saenjaroen, Klai (still), 2011.

Tulapop Saenjaroen

A (Digressive) Focus Program

Part Three
Screening: On trash collectors and Michael Jackson impersonators

With RUTMEAT, Tulapop Saenjaroen, Jia Zhangke, and Zheng Yuan 

Admission starts at $5

July 3, 2022, 7pm
172 Classon Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11205

In the third and last part of Tulapop Saenjaroen: A (Digressive) Focus Program, Saenjaroen’s 2020 video People on Sunday provides a kind of gravity for the evening’s screening and listening session. This work depicts people acting (working) as different versions of themselves—their non-working selves—while their actual selves work in the form of acting. This program gives examples of labor as a kind of capitalist dramaturgy —the performance of our not-selves as happier, more fun, talented, or famous, as people or places in history. Featuring alongside it Saenjaroen’s Klai, Zheng Yuan’s Dream Delivery, RUTMEAT’s Only Workers, and Jia Zhangke’s The Hedonists, many of the works in this last part of the program contain “impersonations”: between an employee and an employer, the parthenon in a shanzhai park, and as extras in a historical reenactment village. 


Tulapop Saenjaroen, Klai (2011, 23 minutes)
Klai depicts Fon, a housekeeper, and Jia, her employer, who perform an interview about their dynamic and the conditions of their respective class backgrounds, with the camera as both themselves and each other.  Who is speaking about their experience, and when are we listening to a projection of their counterpart? Despite what seems like a convivial rapport, what in their performance betrays their class distinction and prejudices? This earlier work consists of elements that crystallize in later works, such as the use of dramaturgy to structure an inquiry into work as it appears not as commodity production but as social labor. 

Zheng Yuan, Dream Delivery (2018, 10 minutes)
An exhausted delivery rider sprawls on the bench of a roadside park and drifts off. In his dream, workers gather together in a shanzhai (imitation goods) park, where they stop to pose as statues. This all-star line up of contemporary youth-laborers in a dream setting explores China’s contemporary urban life: Infused with technology and capital, new kinds of markets emerge, as well as new kinds of exploitation, anxieties, and dreams. I thought of Dream Delivery for this program because I once had a theory that sleep is the last refuge from work. To not-work, you perhaps need to be unconscious. However, sleeping, especially on one’s break while we're so physically depleted from working, is not really a refuge —we only seem to sleep so that we may have the energy to work again when we wake up. So, if sleep is still commensurately tethered to labor, perhaps then dreams can be the place of refuge, although theorizing refuge is somewhat defeatist, too. The refuge is only found in the strategic-until-systemic negation of work in waking life, and when rest and creativity are not primarily performed in order to return to the proverbial factory. 

RUTMEAT, Only Workers (2021, 10 minutes, audio)
A sonorous representation of toil that reminded me of grating factory sounds employed in early agit-prop cinema. I had been thinking and writing about the representation of work and labor and its histories and stories, but I had not considered a sonic expression of labor before. Without an image, the sound is able to capture and attempt a kind of solidarity of disquiet over toil, yet without addressing or representing any actual workers (aside from the artists). A harsh and vexing sound like feelings across all forms of labor—industrial, post-industrial, “dematerialized,” waged and unwaged, contracted and precarious, salaried, and so on—have convened in this ten-minute track. So, in that sense, it is not just “only workers” but also all workers.

Tulapop Saenjaroen, People on Sunday (2020, 21 minutes)
People on Sunday is a double portrait of the inner monologues of a neoliberal subject and the gig precariat as they occupy their complicated proximities to work and to self-care demands. Through the conceptual arrangements of narration and image, the film animates a progression from Marx’s theory of free time in the Grundrisse, liberalism’s corruption of the concept of freedom, and a critique of self-care. 

Jia Zhangke, The Hedonists (2016, 26 minutes) 
In this short film with a screenplay by Zhao Tao, three unemployed miners in China’s Shanxi province are hired as background actors in a historical theme park. However, they seem more qualified to smoke cigarettes and hang out in their lovable formation than to cooperate with the staging of a grandiloquent procession, offering us a slapstick narrative of worker self-sabotage. 

​For more information contact

Film, Labor & Work, Capitalism
Experimental Film, Video Art, Sound Art, Documentary, Sleep & Dreams, Subjectivity, Class, Neoliberalism
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Tulapop Saenjaroen: A (Digressive) Focus Program

RUTMEAT is a sound project by the artist Jeneen Frei Njootli.

Tulapop Saenjaroen (b.1986, Thailand) is an artist and filmmaker whose practice encompasses performance, video, and film. His recent works interrogate the correlations between image production and the production of subjectivity, as well as the paradoxes intertwining control and freedom in late capitalism. In combining narrative and the essay film genre, he investigates subjects such as tourism, self-care, mental illness, and free labor through re-making and re-interpreting the produced images and their networks. Saenjaroen received an MFA in Fine Art Media from The Slade School of Fine Art and an MA in Aesthetics and Politics from CalArts. He currently lives and works in Bangkok.

Jia Zhangke is a filmmaker from the Shanxi province.

Zheng Yuan lives in Beijing. He makes film and installation, and his work often operates at the intersection of fiction, documentary, and essay. His works showed in exhibitions and film festivals internationally, including at MAXXI Museum, Tai Kwun, UCCA, Oberhausen, Visions du Réel, etc.

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