Leigh Ledare: The Task (2017)
Ledare filmed The Task during a three-day Group Relations Conference — a social psychology method developed by London’s Tavistock Institute — that the artist organized in Chicago. In addition to directing the film crew, Ledare assembled the 28 participants and secured the collaboration of 10 psychologists trained in the method.
During a sequence of small and large group meetings, the group studies its own self-made social structure—an abstract “task” that allows participants to examine the identities, roles, desires, and biases individuals import into the group, as well as conscious and unconscious group dynamics. Ledare introduces one key modification, however: the presence of a camera crew and the artist as observers and collaborators. This intervention shifts the “here and now” orientation of the conference by making the members of the group aware of the effect of external social and technological forces. By complicating authority and boundaries among all members—including the artist—Ledare calls attention, by analogy, to power structures that govern our relations to one another in a society where we are increasingly both observers and observed.
Presented in seven chapters, The Task focuses on four large group meetings, each of which includes all the 28 participants, three psychologists (or “consultants”), six camera operators, three observers—and Ledare himself, whose role evolves over the course of the conference. Throughout the film, the group’s members grapple with the emergence of complex patterns of stereotyping and other projections of identity; authority is questioned, assumed, and then taken away; and viewers are implicated as the participants negotiate the subjective forces that exceed the structured constraints of the self-made system.