Film still

In 2011 I bought a Canon 7D Mark II camera. Some friends and I agreed we would buy the same camera, to be able to produce our works using both simultaneously. We also chose to buy manual crystal Nikon lenses, which technically forces us to film in a manual mode.


For this project one of the cameras was attached to a six-axis KUKA robotic arm’s head with a custom-made device that I designed and built myself. Shutter speed, fps (frames per second), and focus were set to fixed, constant values. The arm’s movement, and therefore the camera’s point of view, became the main variable at play, given these constraints. 



The other camera was attached to a tripod that filmed the arm at work. The KUKA arm performs certain security checks before it can perform any job, one of which refers to ‘the Kuka room’. The arm works inside a space limited by four walls and a door. If the door is open, the arm will not work. The reasoning behind this is that nobody should be in the room while the arm is at work. To trick this limitation we kept the door open by taping its latch, for this was the only possible position for the tripod to stand. In this second camera, the point of view became a constant, while focus and focal length were defined as variables.

The film set had a cross-referenced structure: a robotic arm films an object produced by hand, and a robot is filmed by hand. But a film that shows its making is nothing new.

I was recently granted access to enter Guardian Industries’ production plant in Tudela with a camera, thanks to a close friendship with one of its workers. I produced a film that documents the production process of an architectural glass called ‘Gold 20’. There were particular kinds of images I was not allowed to take, among these any long shots of the plant. The way machines and production steps are distributed in space is perceived as sensitive information. The image of a computer screen where this layout is represented is perceived as equally dangerous.


‘Production line’ refers to a sequence of actions rather than to the physical layout of the process. Before production was roboticised, vehicles circulated along assembly lines that followed rather simple routes. But roboticised assembly lines work differently: cars and motorbikes are transported by belts and arms in different levels and directions.

The form of a vector line and the time and space continuity of a side-travelling sequence shot is no longer valid. 

The research of the mysteries that commodities hide, the frontier between subject and object, and the distribution of agency between them, holds an important position in current art theory and practice.

Many artistic projects have explored the way cinematic means would show that which is made (in)visible in industrial production processes.

Gravesend (2007) is a seventeen-minute-long 35 mm film by Steve McQueen. It captures the production process of the coltan-made components present in every cell phone. The film takes ellipsis to the extreme. Images of the coltan extraction process in the Congo are mixed with those of its robotic processing. In between are close-shots of the Congo River and long shots of the River Thames in London.


The same year, Iñaki Garmendia produced S. T. Orbea (Orduña), a single-channel forty-two-minute-long video that pans along the details of a green Orbea bicycle. The video is an extreme exploration of the form of a product where movement holds all narrative value and details become extremely important.


Monument of Sugar is a silent sixty-seven-minute-long 16 mm film by Lonnie van Brummelen and Siebren de Haan, also from 2007. In an attempt to understand the logic behind the commercial exchange of sugar between Europe and Africa, they travelled to Nigeria to buy cheap sugar, a European surplus they intended to export back to the Netherlands. To avoid commercial regulations, they built cube-shaped sculptures of sugar. Both the film and the sugar blocks compose the project’s final outcome. In the film, long text captions provide elaborate explanations that allow an understanding of the images that goes beyond the images themselves.

Two Canon 7D Mark II Cameras

Gold 20 (2013). Film still

One of the key issues dealt with by the French nouvelle vague was the limits of cinema as a language. Today, it is common practice for cinema blockbuster DVDs to include extra features documenting the making of the production. This kind of unfolding – that of the film and of its making – relates to primitive forms of cinema, such as the cinema of attractions, where both the film and the device that had been used to produce the film were shown to the public. Advertisements for these events mentioned the name of the device but not the title of the film.



The latest robotic arm designs for cinema, such as Bot & Dolly’s or Sublab’s, were presented to the public at trade-specific fairs. Novelties in the automotive industry are also showcased at these kinds of events. Company booths usually show promotional videos of their products. These same videos, along with making-of documentaries, remixes, and variations can be accessed on the internet.

Exhibitionism has evolved from concentration on a single event to something more widespread, distributed along different channels in video format. In parallel, factories are today more opaque than ever.



The extensive use of ellipsis in corporate videos, beside the multiplication and fragmentation of such representations, seems to point to its current production conditions, where the totality of a production process is too vast to be captured in a single document. 


Perhaps the most sophisticated representations today are certain factory tours, such as Volkswagens’s Autostadt Wolfsburg and its ‘concept-factory’ in Dresden, named ‘The Transparent Factory’. Videos are mixed together with factory layouts specially designed to facilitate visitors’ movement, providing them with a ‘total experience’ close to that of an amusement park.


Marx’s value theory proposed a dissection of all work contained in any commodity’s production process to obtain an exchange value that would uncover the mysteries of price setting in the trade market. But today’s production processes, as globalised, fragmented, specialised, and highly robotised as they are, make such calculations difficult.

Factory tours and audiovisual documents aim to build an image of work that adjusts the perception of its exchange value to its price, and not the other way around. They contribute to a process fetishism that is at play in the market.





Film still

Gold 20 (2013). Camera test. Go Pro attached to robotic arm. Film still