In “Brown Bagging,” we join the Disorientals in Wendy’s Brown Bag factory, where the mismatch of material and immaterial labor, industrial and post-industrial production, work and game, self and commodity plays out on the factory floor. In Participation May Vary, a Kinect video game created in collaboration with Silvia Ruzanka, participants play along with Wendy at work, but gamification contaminates the factory. Taylorism meets Mario when repetitive gaming maneuvers meld with the repetitive tasks of factory food production. Between working shifts as Wendy, players learn Tai Chi and advance toward Nirvana. Three videos show the Disorientals gleaning ketchup bottles, pushing a giant brown bag, and practicing Tai Chi. It’s a disorienting mash-up in which participating as a “productive” member of contemporary global culture erodes the line between producing commodities and producing self.
This project is a chapter in The Food Groups, a five-part series focusing on race and labor in American food production and promotion. One-by-one, the Disorientals encounter five historical food industry characters: Wendy of Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers, Aunt Jemima, Land O’Lakes’ Indian Maiden, Sun-Maid and Chiquita Banana. In their encounters with these iconic identities, the Disorientals undertake efforts to erase the distinction between the depersonalized production and the personalized promotion of industrial food.