In Reassembling the Social, Bruno Latour identifies “accidents, breakdowns and strikes” as one type of the privileged occasions when the agency of objects becomes visible: “all of a sudden, completely silent intermediaries become full-blown mediators; even objects, which a minute before appeared fully automatic, autonomous, and devoid of human agents, are now made of crowds of frantically moving humans with heavy equipment” (p. 81). This article from The Independent gives an interesting account of the “heavy equipment,” the socio-material assemblage that was in place to support the performance of Michael Jackson (and specifically the planned 50 performances in London), which was suddenly brought to light by the star’s untimely passing. As the assemblage not only had failed to accomplish its aim but might have also contributed to the tragedy, its composition has become a central focus of the investigation that is currently unfolding.
Thus we learn that the planned 50 performances of this 50 year-old person, weighing about 50 kg, was supported by a cocktail of 8 different prescription drugs (painkillers, sedatives, muscle relaxants, and pills against heart burn and anxiety); a couple of private doctors (one of them also doubling as his official spokesman and manager); a personal trainer non other than a former Mr Universe and Incredible Hulk actor; AEG Live, the concert promoter (who also employed the doctor at the heart of the controversy), and a raft of financial advisors, managers and other associates. The picture is inevitably incomplete but it’s clear that a range of heterogeneous actors had to be assembled to try to make the London concerts a reality. According to the CEO of AEG Live, Michael Jackson allegedly himself reflected on the situation with these words: “Look, this whole business revolves around me. I’m a machine and we have to keep the machine well oiled.”