Out of (the Assembly) Line: Mo(ve)ments of Uselessness Beyond the Human Scale

Veronika Darian


Since modernity the relationship between man and things has become precarious. At that time a far-reaching invention turned into a symbol and memorial of modern usage requirements and most efficient production processes: the assembly line. The movements to be performed within the strictly specified processes served only one purpose: the final product. As a consequence, work processes were divided up in the rhythm of the machines, sequences of actions were reduced, and alienation (Entfremdung) was promoted – pushing not only Charlie Chaplin’s tramp into the gear wheels of Modern Times (1936). Under these conditions the relationship between man and thing(s) was renegotiated: On the one hand the working class found itself objectified in a rushing hamster wheel, on the other hand the things in literature and arts regained obstinacy. During those times various authors started questioning the human scale as an omnipresent measure and value of life. Furthermore, things were equipped with biographies of their own, for example by the Russian futurist author Sergei Tret’iakov and his “Biography of the Object”, which featured the intrinsic value of the non-human, non-heroic towards traditional protagonists. Even today, artists succeed in their way to explore various assemblies of peoples and things, such as the artist duo Peter Fischli and David Weiss in their mixed media experiment The Way Things Go (1987). The article focuses on such resistant gestures of/towards things, that lack any obvious benefit and purposefulness, but, on the contrary, reveal their uselessness by literally falling ‘out of line’.


Article received: December 12, 2021; Article accepted: February 1, 2022; Published online: April 15, 2022; Original scholarly article

How to cite this article: Darian, Veronika. "Out of (the Assembly) Line: Mo(ve)ments of Uselessness Beyond the Human Scale." AM Journal of Art and Media Studies 27 (April 2022): 141–148. doi: 10.25038/am.v0i27.504



Assembly line; Fordism; Modern Times; The Way Things Go; Sergei Tret’iakov, Biography of the Object; gesture, out of line.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.25038/am.v0i27.504


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