In this two-part feature on Work & Economy, report editor Aaron Cayer and artist Tom Leytham describe the history of industrial mill work and its consequences on the landscape, the community, and the politics of the town.
Part I features Cayer’s essay, “Mill Supply: Making Paper and Maintaining the Technological Sublime,” which examines the architectural history of the Rumford paper mill, once the largest producer of book paper in the world, and the ways in which its “sublime disciplining power” have been maintained and reproduced by books, films, reports, and media. He reveals how this maintenance was and continues to be made possible by a sustained practice of “glossing over” of mill supply. Just as the paper was coated to conceal variation, the concerns of papermakers who offered their labor, and in many cases their lives, were ignored. The gloss remains, and the lure and disciplining power of the mill continue to define the community through new mediums. What might a post-mill future look like, and how might it feel? —Maine’s River Valley report editors
Read part II of the Work & Economy feature here.