What is a Factory?

Course Mentors:  Anuj Daga, Mayuri Sisodia, Rupali Gupte, Samir Raut

What is a Factory?

Factories emerged as the centre of modern life by the 19th century in the world, not just figuratively, but also as a social and material phenomenon. The conditions they generated, upended our understanding of space, time, body in completely new ways.

In reordering resources, people and life, the factory redefined where people would live and spaces that they would work in. The factory was a magnet that attracted throngs of people from impoverished hinterlands, struck by famines into a place which promised them work. Free from communal boundaries, it brought together bodies that burgeoned and swelled into the “city” that we know today. These large-scale migrations to concentrated spaces of production, produced new urban conditions, in turn shaping the mental life of its inhabitants. The phantasmagoric conditions produced in turn redefined the semantics of urbanity, and what it means to be urban.

The process of production recast the material and moral life of people into new relationships. The crafted was replaced by the readymade, the leisurely was taken over by spaces of entertainment, the circadian life got reframed into strict timetables. The shift-regime conceived in the invent of industrial time divided days and weeks into portions of labour and rest. This is how we live the concept of office-time and weekends today. Further, an annum got divided into periods of work and vacation.

As assembly lines got organised for efficiency, in factories, bodies and machines became extensions of each other. The factory became a large non space where different actions, organs and sounds fused into each other reducing a living subject into a worker. The space of the factory itself was engineered for optimum conditions of humidity, warmth and sanitation not for the human subject but for the goods produced. New spatial types emerged as new materials and technologies were introduced and as work processes were streamlined.

While these conditions emerged in Europe, they found their way into the colonies in awkward ways. Colonies became both places of production as well as markets for the spoils of the industrial age. Older logics of production got reshaped as colonial enterprises aggressively marketed factory produced goods. As hinterlands were ravaged by famines and unpredictable crop yields, people thronged to cities in the colonies as well. These also smudged many relations riddled by prejudices of caste, gender roles etc.

Today one may trace certain traits of our present-day ideas of public, family, home, or personhood shaped in the framework of capitalism, cast through the infrastructure of the factory. Ideas of profit, mass, commodity, alienation emerge from the womb of the industrial revolution. Regimes of work-shifts, modes of labour, functional specialization or the assembly line production continue  to dictate societal thinking even today. These relations often also sit awkwardly with feudal relationships through residues of habits formed out of older means of productions and the traditions built around them. This is further complicated with new post industrial processes of fragmentation of the factory into multiple service economies as well as the emergence of the digital in the production process and the dematerialisation of the goods produced. These newer processes in turn shape the relations surrounding it.

This studio aims to understand the genealogy of the factory, the relations it has shaped, its contemporary condition in our own  context and through a critical reading of these ask the ontological question: What is a Factory?

The aim of the design process is to re-programme the factory through a critical understanding of its genealogy and through its interpretations by several philosophers, writers and artists. This reprogramming should reshape the typology of a factory for a new imagination for how we might think of a contemporary factory through renewed relations of how we ought to live today.