Until quite recently, the office was a space devoted exclusively to work; now that almost anachronistic idea has mutated: work has escaped those demarcated confines and invaded every aspect of life. Work no longer begins or ends in the office. Actually, it never ends at all, it has become omnipresent, expanding to fill all available time and space. The acceleration of capitalist logic and overproduction have led to the blurring of borders between the space and time devoted to work and the space and time devoted to rest and leisure. Office brings together artworks that reflect on the complexity of meaning in today’s concept of work –exacerbated by the multiple layers of meaning added by the current pandemic.
The exhibition opens with Daria Irincheeva’s Inbox. This composition of paintings schematically represents the text fields of a document, an email, or a letter. This large-scale representation of a document insinuates our psychological state of permanent “work mode.” Irincheeva explores the semiotics of everyday environments and reveals that working space and living space are one and the same. In Inbox she uses raw pigments, as those materials were the first human invention in terms of color. Carefully selected, each of the colors in this piece—ochre, black, and red—harken back to days long past, to cave paintings and prehistoric uses of color in art. For Irincheeva, this is a way to offer perspective on the thousands of years of slow human evolution as compared to our brief lives as individuals. As such, the choice of these colors draws a line from primitive hunting in groups to the team work in contemporary offices. At the same time, the piece invites us to question and imagine possible alternatives to this evolutionary trajectory. Inbox is an expansion of Continuous Function, a project exhibited at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art in 2019.
In bureau désespoir, María Alcaide approaches the subject of work through spatialization as she reconfigures the image of an office. Typical office architecture—divided into cubicles and cut off from the outside world—becomes the place through which vast chains of information flow, accelerating virtual economic transactions. Alcaide begins with the premise that art happens all around us. Yet the lack of stability and clear horizons, combined with the complexity of the capitalistic system, causes artistic work to seemingly both disappear and become omnipresent. From these ideas, Alcaide offers a mise-en-scène with a series of products—blinds, a rug, a briefcase, an air freshener, the book The Global Village by Marshall McLuhan, as well as a publication in newspaper format created for the exhibit—that ironically refer to our collective images around the office. The various objects, referenced in her newspaper’s section “How to decorate an office,” are less relevant as objets d’art as they are for their symbolic and ideological weight. Likewise, they are accompanied by a series of five framed forms that have been filled out and printed with the words My Job is About Seduction. The forms are a test taken from the book How to Succeed in the Staff Selection Process, by Cecilio Benito Alas. Alcaide has answered the questions posed by the test as if she were one of the five bosses she’s worked under in recent years, and their names give each piece its title: Paula, Luis, Filippo, Alicia and _Constanz_e.
Finally, Choreographies of Work is a series of drawings made by a robotic arm that translates the compositions created by a programming tool. This tool, located on a website, gathers the gestures made by people working in front of a computer. In an era where work, for many people, has been reduced to a progression of subtle gestures carried out in front of a computer, the body becomes an interface and the repetition of tasks and small movements generates a specific choreography. At the same time, Choreographies of Work opens up a debate about how the technologies we use for work in turn use us to record data and information, feeding other production circuits of which oftentimes we are not even aware.