Simon Dybbroe Møller’s series What Do People Do All Day is a contemporary update to Richard Scarry’s 1968 children’s book of the same name. Replacing the original's drawings of cute anthropomorphized animals doing people-things in industrious and purposeful Busytown, with real-life neurotic humans operating in the schizophrenic terrain of the twenty-first century, Dybbroe Møller juxtaposes Scarry’s idealistic "everybody is a worker" ethos with the "everything is work” reality of technocapitalism.
By having gig workers, delivery people, farmers, and venture capitalists all rubbing shoulders, What Do People Do All Day asks viewers to look at their own work and the work that makes their life possible, even if it might be invisibilized, or just looked over. (Do you think about how the apple you ate with lunch got to you? Do you have any idea what a “corporate social responsibility consultant” does?) And, in the midst of this all, we shop and cook and clean or pay someone else to. We fall in love, we have sex. However, all these practices are increasingly mediated, alienated, and alienating. Someone else buys our groceries from an app, or we are that someone else. We swipe through potential lovers who are just images and a first name. Data and the management of complexity have seeped into even our most primal needs for sustenance and for touch.
Using quotes from Scarry’s book and from Elio Petri’s 1971 film The Working Class Goes to Heaven, read by non-actors in shifting costumes and undergoing sexual collisions, Dybbroe Møller investigates the nature of work in the past and today while troubling the ways that techno-capitalism have turned everything and every hour into labor.
Commissioned for Kunsthal Charlottenborg, in partnership with Tranen and CPH:DOX.