Effetto Kanban (Kanban Effect)


This title refers to the Kanban, a sort of  ‘clocking-in card’, which Ohno himself defined as Toyotism’s key principle, functioning as a support to the flexibility in production adopted by the Fiat Sata plant in Melfi. As Mauro Folci explains in his essay presenting the exhibition, ‘The Kanban is that form filled out by the client of the car company which details all the options for his car, and which establishes the production plan at the manufacturing stage in the factory. From the viewpoint of organization, it represents a system of communication to achieve the ‘just in time’; the effect it has of concealing the controls, as it were, reverses the perception of the determinant of order, from the management to the client, and works strategically as a regulating force of social intercourse’ . Although the exhibition had a harder life in Rome than in Rieti, as the white banners that were hung on the rationalist-style buildings of the Sapienza University Campus the evening prior to the inauguration were taken down by the police and by some university workers, it went on regardless. A worker hired on a six hours a day temporary contract for the entire duration of the exhibition was given the task of carrying a series of crates with a lift truck across the University compound main square. The entrance of the museum was walled up and the performance began with the signing of the contract; the latter was posted up on a notice board by the front door, next to a copy of the Italian law which regulates pro tem assignments contracts. The worker’s labour is filmed and shown live on a monitor placed in the square. Forced to repeat an absurd task, the worker immediately reminds us of Sisyphus, the Greek hero whom Camus writes about in The Myth of Sysiphus, whose task was to push the same rock up a mountain from the top of which it inexorably rolled back down. The worker is but re-producing a gesture, his load only needs to be carried from one side to the opposite side of the square. No other objective underpins his repetition: we all have our rock to push up and chase down a mountain. In Effetto Kanban the worker carrying the empty crates with his lift truck is – just as every temporary worker – confused as to who his real employer may be: ‘The pro tem worker cannot be sure whether the tyrant who forced him to such brutal work is the artist or the temping agency’