The installation reanimates a selection of archival materials, revealing intersections between industrial labor management, the cinematic apparatus, and utopian visions of social progress. Framed by the destitute but determined Mutt and Jeff, a hapless duo of early cartoon characters who go on strike and attempt to animate themselves, the project foregrounds humor and slapstick as means of resisting a regime of highly regulated gestures.
A central three-channel projection sets worker efficiency exercises against documentation of folie à deux (induced or contagious psychosis), exposing ideology at work through repetition and reenactment. This sets off a chain reaction across a series of instructional charts, photographic motion studies, and sculptural objects. What happens when motions become things and take on a life of their own? Beloff’s works mine the unconscious of Fordist mass production to stress erratic rhythms and conflicted affects that endure in contemporary paradigms of work.
The “productive” body is shadowed by its “unproductive” double in Beloff’s installation, which reflects on parallel histories of photography applied to parsing and prescribing movement. Through a montage of institutional films from the mid-twentieth century, the optimized workers of scientific management meet psychiatric patients whose gesticulations are rendered excessive and aberrant. To set these types into dialectical motion, Beloff interlaces the found footage with a series of reenactments by actress Kate Valk. Embodying both female subjects and male analysts in turn through lip-syncing and gestural mimicry, Valk’s performance underscores the camera’s role in both assembly line efficiency and gendered pathologies of hysteria. The film’s shifting tempos and reversals incite an anxious syncopation as a dream world of objects defies its ordered administration. Though it draws on the visual imaginary of an earlier industrial age, The Infernal Dream of Mutt and Jeff speaks as much to the Amazon warehouse workers who fulfill our on-demand orders as it does to the internalized self-management of twenty-first century service labor.