Images at Work Conference 2023

deadline for submissions: 
March 31, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
King's College London

German Screen Studies Network (GSSN) & King’s College London 


Images at Work: Labour and the Moving Image

King’s College London 

Thursday, 22 and Friday, 23 June 2023 

Deadline for Proposals:31 March 2023  


In the nearly 130 years since the Lumière brothers filmed their employees in La Sortie de l'Usine Lumière à Lyon [Workers Leaving the Factory] (1895), artists and filmmakers have explored the capacities of the moving image to examine labour as a crucial facet of everyday life and modern society. The Lumières’ iconic La Sortie – shot multiple times over several days (including a Sunday) – is emblematic of film’s history in witnessing both the evolution of work and the challenges and complexities of capturing those social and political realities of labour often abstracted or concealed from vision (Brecht, 1932; Comolli, 1996). In more recent times, renewed interest in La Sortie, through its re-appropriation by artists such as Harun Farocki, Kevin Jerome Everson, Sharon Lockhart, and Andrew Norman Wilson has coincided with a growing exploration of the status of labour in film (Gorfinkel, 2012; Mazierska, 2013; Pinkus and Rhodes, 2018; Skvirsky, 2020). Meanwhile, the discussion around work has evolved, incorporating new voices and other immaterial, affective, digital and globalised forms of labour affected by changing economic models, technologies, media and means of production. 

The Images at Work conference takes its inspiration from this juncture of old and new. It builds on the long-established political history and theory around labour – especially that associated with German critical thought, such as the work of Karl Marx, Max Weber, Rosa Luxemburg, and the Frankfurt School – and seeks to reassess the subject of labour and the moving image from diverse contexts and perspectives, looking beyond the prevalence of the Global North and the white, male working class in these debates. This international event, incorporating film screenings and artists’ talks, aims to bring together practitioners and professionals with researchers working across film studies, cultural studies, media studies, critical race studies, history, sociology, economics, politics, philosophy, and anthropology. It intends to foster new, interdisciplinary conversations on labour and the moving image that address the breadth of representations of labour in non-narrative film – particularly in artists’ film practices, such as video installation, experimental film, essay film, and activist, or radical documentary practices – and the global histories and evolutions of labour practices, providing a long overdue reassessment of this perennial yet often overlooked subject. 

We welcome all critical and creative approaches to examining representations of labour on screen and invite proposals for 20-minute presentations that span diverse historical and geographical contexts.  

We would particularly encourage proposals on topics including, but not limited to: 

  • Revisiting the Workers Leaving the Factory scene and other reflexive practices that explore the representation of labour through the moving image 

  • The (In)visibility of labour and the political and ethical implications of representing workers, workspaces and/or the working class 

  • Archive-based research and preservation work on labour in film 

  • Reassessing German histories around labour in film and theory (especially through examinations of race, class, gender, sexuality, and other perspectives) 

  • Marginalised, post-colonial histories of work 

  • Experimental film/media around workers, strikes and labour 

  • New concepts around labour in moving image practices (‘immaterial’, digital or virtual labour, affective, key, care and domestic workers, precarity etc.) 

  • Film form and spectatorship as labour/work 

  • Circulation, distribution, and exhibition of films on labour 

  • Film and video activism around work conditions and strikes 


Submission Guidelines 

Abstracts of 250-300 words (including 3-5 bibliographical references), and a short biography of no more than 100 words should be sent to by 31 March 2023

Notifications of acceptance will be sent by 01 May 2023. 

Note: this is primarily an in-person event, if you are unable to attend in-person please state this clearly in your submission. A limited number of travel bursaries are available to support self-funded post-graduate students and precariously employed early career researchers. To apply, please confirm your eligibility at the bottom of your abstract, along with a brief summary explaining why you require the support 

Organised by Laura Lux (KCL) and Georgina Le Breuilly (KCL), this conference is part of the German Screen Studies Network’s DAAD-funded Promoting German Studies Project, "German Screen Studies Network (GSSN): Media, Cultures, Histories” led by Dora Osborne and Paul Flaig (German and Film Studies, University of St Andrews) in partnership with the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures (DLLC) at King’s College London.