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A female-appearing humanoid robot is filling in its border security form and is asked for its "occupation". It wonders what to write. What are its ambitions, possibilities, likelihoods, dreams? Occupation ponders numerous robot roles in society, set against what we already know about the societal roles and occupations of women and of immigrants. The work revels in the disinclination of the imagination to be reduced to fields on an administrative form.
The list of potential occupations announced by the robot draws from the existing online network. With a couple of exceptions, they are gleaned from the Australian Department of Immigration's website (2012). Bizarrely, this list seems to work against occupational stereotypes in its apparently random and unintentionally comedic inclusion of all sorts and levels of jobs, literally from A to Z.
Selected jobs are cited alphabetically by the robot (with an unintentional error: the human-machine assemblage is flawed after all!), in homage to Martha Rossler's video Semiotics of the Kitchen (1975). In this early feminist parody work, Rossler also journeyed through the alphabet, demonstrating progressively more satiric uses for the kitchen implements she named aloud. She said of the work, "when the woman speaks, she names her own oppression" (Electronic Arts Intermix 1997). Performatively challenging the securely understood signs of women's functionality, Rossler allowed an affective rupture of the "system of harnessed subjectivity" (MoMA 2010). Semiotics of the Kitchen concurrently ridicules and expands the standard imaginary. Updated (perhaps?) to feature a womanly robot, Occupation aims to do this too.
Elena Knox is a media/performance artist and scholar. Her artworks centre on enactments of gender, presence and persona in technoscience and communications media, and her writing appears in literary and academic journals. Knox attained her PhD at UNSW Australia Art & Design with research on gynoid robots. She is a researcher in Japan at Waseda University's Department of Intermedia Art and Science. In 2019 she participated in exhibitions at Mori Art Museum (Tokyo, 'Future and the Arts') and The National Museum of China (Beijing, 'AS Helix: The Integration of Art and Science in the Age of Artificial Intelligence'). In 2020 she has shown at Yokohama Triennale and Bangkok Art Biennale.