Take control of your time. Be your own boss! The appeal of independence is drawing workers to online gig platforms like never before. While freelance sites like PeoplePerHour, Fiverr and Upwork have enabled young people in developing countries to pursue higher incomes in creative fields, the “on demand” workforce is always under pressure, facing daunting and sometimes farcical challenges. Performance metrics demand constant availability, turning the coveted laptop lifestyle into a race against the clock.
In Real Life is an experimental reality show created by Liz Magic Laser that dramatizes five workers’ endeavors to manage their own health and productivity as the very nature of work changes around them. The five cast members take part in a “30 Day Biohack Challenge” intended to optimize their quality of life and work using wellness tracking apps and tech devices. Filmed via webcams and mobile phones, these reality stars document their struggles toward establishing a work-life balance. Each was advised by a biohacking life coach who trained at the Bulletproof Human Potential Institute, as well as a psychic tarot reader who offers his services on Fiverr. The cast members were also hired as the creative crew, producing the five episodes of the show in collaboration with Laser.
In Real Life makes a parodic critique of wellness in the age of neoliberal self-care while earnestly engaging with these same mindfulness practices. Biohacking extends the logic of scientific management to control one’s own mind and body. Silicon Valley brands like Bulletproof and Goop sell the fantasy of maximizing work productivity and finding inner peace. To conflate these objectives can be troubling because biohacking claims both the body and its mental capacity as raw material to exploit for profit.
More and more workers are now categorized as freelancers who struggle to maintain financial stability as well as their mental and physical health without either job security or benefits. As workplace hierarchies and the idea of the “boss” dissolves into a system of apps and algorithms, anonymous platforms have workers manage themselves according to dashboard metrics in all aspects of life, even the most personal.
–– Liz Magic Laser and Vanessa Thill
In Real Life, Liz Magic Laser, 2019, 5-channel HD video installation, 90 minutes; custom seating (dimensions variable). Commissioned by FACT, Liverpool, UK.
In Real Life will be on view in Laser’s upcoming show, People Per Hour, at Various Small Fires, Los Angeles from November 22, 2019 to January 25, 2020.
Featuring: Alabi Adebayo Akintunde (nollygfx on Upwork), Zahid Iqbal (thelancersinc on Fiverr), Cardy O'Donnell (PeoplePerHour), Nikki (PeoplePerHour), Kiki Wong (K1wngg on Fiverr), Count Marco (Fiverr and PsychicMix), Louise Papadopoullos (Mind Body Design).
Video Producer: David E. Guinan, Edited by: Laura Geisswiller, Trailer Editor / Assistant Editor: Jonathan Turton, Producer: Charlotte Horn, Written by: Liz Magic Laser, Cardy O'Donnell, Vanessa Thill, Whiteboard Animator: Alabi Adebayo Akintunde, Graphic Design: Zahid Iqbal, Voiceover Artist: Kiki Wong, Social Media Content Creator: Nikki, Researcher: Vanessa Thill, Research Assistant: Penelope Pardo, Motion Graphics: Patrick Bate, Frostmotion, Graphicsplayer, David Guinan, Yoshi Sodeoka, Jonathan Turton, 3D Animation: David Guinan, Sound Designer: Jared Arnold, Composer: Gobby, Sound Re-recording mixer: Chris Liang, Technical Advisor: Mark Murphy, Additional Music by: Chris Liang and Sonnymusic1 (on Fiverr), Additional Animations by: Yoshi Sodeoka, Additional filming by: Carl Davies, Atanas Paskalev and Maria Ruban, Special Thanks to Maneesh Sethi of Pavlok.
Commissioned by FACT as part of The Future World of Work, a project commissioned by Culture Liverpool as part of the Liverpool 2018 programme. Supported by the U.S. Embassy London. Supported using public funding by Arts Council England and Liverpool City Council. Courtesy of the artist, Various Small Fires (Los Angeles) and Wilfried Lentz (Rotterdam). Installation photographs by Rob Battersby.