Thomas Harrington Rawle & Bjarki skewer corporate care in Affirmation Chamber
The audiovisual artist teams up with the producer and sound artist to plunge us back into the Care More universe, a darkly comedic reflection of our own fractured world.
Care More is artist Thomas Harrington Rawle’s response to the confusion and absurdity of contemporary narratives of self-care in an increasingly cruel and atomised world. Taking place in an intricately rendered, broken universe, in which the Care Corporation have weaponized mindfulness meditation and self-care practice to enslave what’s left of a divided humanity into its infinitely expanding workforce, Care More is a series of works from Rawle that explore different aspects of the corporation’s global takeover. The first, Care More: Episode One, introduced us to his anhedonic post-apocalypse, in which people are fed into content machines and maniacally grinning searchcraft scrape the scorched surfaces of ruined cities in search of more subjects for processing. Last year, in the visual for London producer JQ’s ‘I Heard Your Name In The Noise’, Rawle detailed another of these processes, the medicalised application of empty, nonsensical encouragement and sanitised corporate imagery to induce anesthetizing hypnosis.
In Affirmation Chamber, Rawle explores another of the dehumanizing procedures employed by Care Corp in the form of an overwhelming barrage of affirmation via immersion in a rigor mortis death grin “Affirmizer Helmet”. Featuring a stellar cast of voice actors, including VTSS, Bruce, Breanna Box, Joanna Kuchta, Hinako Omori, Mui Zyu, Enzo Samuel and Cathal Mckeon, the writer and co-creator of the Care More universe, Affirmation Chamber plays out against rich, textural sound design from producer Bjarki and serves as an introduction to their new live AV show, which debuted at the 2021 edition of Sheffield’s No Bounds Festival. “The film is an exploration of what happens during the affirmation procedure, a process in which a human being is put inside an Affirmizer Helmet and transformed into a willing and productive worker of the Care Corp, the production centre of the Care More universe,” explains Rawle.
“We see a process in which a human being is gradually worn away into a smooth metallic humanoid,” he continues. “This being now projecting high-paced, A.I.-generated data visualisations on its skins’ surface. After being fully engulfed in the process, the human finally becomes a toy like Care More humanoid, a plastic being with a fixed expression and a fixed purpose. In this world we see that the people are offered the freedom to choose but not the freedom from choice.” As an uncanny valley subject is subjected to the procedure, they are immediately exposed to the dehumanized template for the ideal Care Corporation worker, technicolor avatars reduced to pliable homunculi, consumed with an artificially engorged belief in themselves. “I want to give you the gift of you,” the affirmizer helmet plays back to the subject, continuing, “there is nothing to worry about. You love being positive. You succeed with ease. You succeed with grace,” as their human features are flattened against a warping mesh of GAN animation.
“You don’t have any doubts. You will not have any doubts ever,” the device emphasises, its UX interface briefly taking the form of a ’90s-style, hand animated cartoon rat, masking a more militant turn towards enforced isolation and corporate obedience. “You are absolutely sure that everything is fine, always. People around you that make you doubt, remove them.” In a haunting allusion to the illusion of choice, Rawle cracks open the chassis of the Affirmizer Helmet to reveal a gurning production line of identical human forms, an unwitting chorus to the dehumanizing instructions of the affirmation procedure, itself a protocol within Care Corporation’s ultimate goal. “You will not waste a single day in your life. You will squeeze every ounce of value from every moment,” the device concludes. “You may be anxious about your assignment. Do not fret. Every part of you is built and prepared for your assignment. You love your assignment.” Encased in smooth metal, affectless and toylike, slumped in the affirmation chamber, our protagonist is newly patient and ready, calm and efficient. Within the commodification of care, affirmation is subsumed as just another apparatus of control.
For more information about Thomas Harrington Rawle you follow him on Instagram. You can find Bjarki on Bandcamp, SoundCloud and Instagram. The pair continue to develop their live AV show, which will tour in 2023.
Affirmation Chamber Credits:
Music – Bjarki
Direction – Thomas Harrington Rawle
Voices – Breanna Box, Joanna Kuchta, Mui Zyu, James Canty, Enzo Samuel, Bruce, VTSS, Chris Golden & Hinako Omori
Additional Dialogue – Breanna Box & Cathal Mckeon