Photography and installation about the slow time from nine to five.
Fightclub's Tyler Durden put it best: "You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake". We spend our lives at work - our careers are an enormous and contradictory part of how we value ourselves, how we're judged and how we relate to others. Through sculpture, installation and photography, the curators of Mostly Agree investigate the part corporate culture plays in forming our sense of individuality: how work at once directs us by injecting us with purpose, and throws us into despair and paralysis by narrowing that feeling of boundless possibilities we feel at points in our youth.
There is a rich and familiar history of the conflict between the individual and contemporary corporate capitalism in popular culture. And some of the works in Mostly Agree fall back on stock ideas: the suited everyman, the ironically modified office suite. Sometimes it risks mimicking the greyscale culture it seeks to subvert. But the show is solid, and worth a visit just for the excellent stop-motion video work Reproduction by Emma White.
In an endless 13second loop, a polymer clay photocopier methodically pumps out blank pages, then sucks them back in. There is no beginning, middle or end, only the slow time of nine to five. The attention to detail is exceptional, from the way the paper bends as it is ejected, to the flash of awful, cold light that periodically bleeps out from the side of the copier lid. Watching this video is as addictive and pointless as repeatedly pressing the refresh button of your Gmail account or Facebook news feed. It wonderfully expresses not just the inanity of many workplace tasks, but the joylessness of the silent bus stop queue, the dread of the monthly phone bill's arrival, the non-choice between forty near-identical tubes of toothpaste under fluorescent supermarket light, and all the other tiny, predictable habits that capitalism shoves us into. Reproduction is a precisely executed, brilliantly simple and infallibly wholistic piece of conceptual art.
Jaki Middleton and David Lawrey's sculptural installation Consolidated Life aims for the same balance of dreadful beauty. A three metre high office block looks like a vogon spacecraft from Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy, but is in fact a Tardis of sorts. Circle the building and you will find a window to a miniature interior. Using mirrors and optical trickery, the artists have created a deadly still and infinite grid of desks, conspicuously empty of workers and interrupted only by a single, eerily spinning office chair.
Image: "Consolidated Life", 2010, kinetic sculpture (internal view) by Jaki Middleton and David Lawrey.
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Friday, August 6 - Sunday, February 6
Online and Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory