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Does capitalism make ‘non-playable characters’ of us all? An uncanny exploration

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‘There will never be enough nails in the wood.’

The ‘pseudo-Marxist’ Austrian art collective Total Refusal creates short films with visuals generated entirely from within popular video games. In Hardly Working, they train their focus on just a few of the hundreds of non-playable characters who populate the background in the western action-adventure game Red Dead Redemption 2 (2018). These often-seen, rarely scrutinised carpenters, laundresses, stable boys and street sweepers occupy a circular, uncanny reality centred on the repetitive tasks that hardly make a mark on the world around them. At first dryly humorous, the proceedings grow disquieting as the narrator prods the viewer to consider the ‘infinite loop of labour performance’ of life within a capitalist system.

Directors: Susanna Flock, Robin Klengel, Leonhard Müllner, Michael Stumpf

Website: Total Refusal

12 February 2024
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