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Can you manage?

Land management, water management, anger management, time management, micro managing, managing illness, business managing. How do you manage all that. I hope you’re managing.

“The word ‘Manage’ derived from the Italian language ‘maneggiare’ that means to handle, especially tools or a horse. ‘Maneggiare’ derived from two Latin words ‘manus’(hand) and ‘agere’(to act).”

To act with the hand.

The hand in religion, the hand as a weapon, the intimacy of the hand, eroticism of the hand, the hand as tool of nourishment, hand as creative tool, hand as terraforming force, hand as the first technology, hand as an interface.

Is the human hand what created culture?

For a few years I’ve harboured some kind of perverse fascination with offices. Having never worked in one, the practises and cultures of the office have taken on somewhat mythological status in my fictional renderings of them. The times I have performed in drag it often involves parodying the office worker and no I don’t think its a coincidence that my dad was one, something to unpack later. Admin was the subject of my work for a long time, investigating templates and forms and the cult of bureaucracy (was big on David Graebers Utopia of Rules) which also coincided with my moving to the land of bureaucracy, Germany (which someone recently told me was a fall out of nazi Germany for their way of systemising the movement of people). I am convinced by paperwork as a cult, a disembodied authoritarian body of control used to enforce certain time structures and mentally occupy the public to the point that they would be rendered totally submission to the dominant system. An excess used to colonise time and mental capacity leaving little room for little else, let alone anarchy. Paperwork is also not democratic. I’ve seen friends with migrant status in Germany be totally broken by the immense loads of it as well as it being entirely in German meaning that Germans easily slip through the net leaving others to become choked by it. Anyway, this wasn’t meant to be a rant on paperwork. Offices, management, yes.

My fascination with the office is also due to structures of organisation. I think a part of me envies the office culture while another part of me loves to rip it apart. The bean bags and the ping pong tables and afterwork football and the start up vibe and the fact that ’employees wellbeing manager’ is a job title that sounds like caretaking but is more like how do we cover up the fact that this job is actually awful with office yoga on the terrace every Wednesday. I’m fascinated with the office etiquette and corporate culture where it seems that human nature has evolved in very strange trajectories. It seems contrived and performative to the point where all I want to do is perform it.

Management. Surveillance. These were also subject of my graduation research where I was looking into how we come to internalise the managerial gaze so that there is no longer any need for an embodied centralised “boss” or managerial overseer because we also survey ourselves all the time. This manager tucks into bed with us, looks over our shoulder even when we aren’t working ensuring that the workplace extends well beyond the walls of the office. I was looking at how workplace culture and industrialism has started to become formless and omnipresent, taking over places and relationship of non-work ensuring that are always at work. This interest gradually melted as I was swallowed into the swampy hedonism of life in Berlin, leaving behind the insane career drive work ethic of London, yet exploring it in other ways. Last winter I became part of a collective working to run our local queer bar in a collective non-herarchal structure. Much of our work has been discussing strategies and structures of decision making, which is quite dry most of the time and then I wonder if bureaucracy could be considered a form of worlduilding? In becoming a legal body we had to write and submit a very official “satzung” document which is in essence an object law or “legislation enacted by a legal person under public law incorporated in the State”. We were creating our own legal framework to operate through and something about that felt quite punk. It is an ongoing process of thinking how else to organise, how to do away with the manager all together.

A lot of conflict in my relationships and collaboration come from my compulsive need to manage. everything. Some call it eldest child syndrome some it white supremacy, even an astrologer once told me that being a control freak is written in the stars for me, so there have been plenty of signs that it is something I need to work on. I recently attended a workshop called Decolonial Role-play hosted by CAC Berlin, in which we enacted the scenario of a German business tycoon managed a sugar cane plant in the Dominican Republic, formally an autonomously run farm, each of the primarily white group taking on a role in this scene. Management usually results in a one sided concentration of autonomy and we each experienced this excess or lack of agency in very embodied ways. The conversations that followed were about how we could have enacted our roles different to disrupt this concentration. Is management always about power? Humans managing land. Humans managing other humans. Humans managing animals.

But to go back to the start, tracing the etymology of the word manger as rooting from the latin for ‘hand’. The hand is also a caretaker. What relationship does management have to caretaking, stewardship. The word Janitor comes from the name of the greek god of beginnings and endings, transition, ceremony and doors, Janus. The janitor too is a caretaker. The difference between the janitor and the manager is that they live pretty much on opposite ends of the spectrum of power distribution. What would the office look like if the janitor had the decision making power? But then again is goal to rotate who hoards this power (is matriarchy any better than a patriarchy) or to distribute it? And this takes me to where I think my practise is today, enacting on a practical level, both in community organisation but also through performance, alternate modes of distributing agency between groups of people.

Next I would like to explore both theoretically and in practise how the non-human holds agency in shaping change. A recent example I have in my head is in Miranda July’s The Future where the moon is a character. Similarly climate change is cast, less explicitly, as a character in Octavia Butlers Parable of the Sower. In both examples the geological and the meteorological shape the narrative to which the human character are responding.

And to end this on a speculation, what is the moon was the office manager? Either its oxymoronic in that the moon, I hope, would render the office obsolete, otherwise its a cringe quasi-spiritual strategy of a hip start-up which makes me wanna vom.


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