Through video works, a handful of artists explore the workplace as an environment and the perceptions and emotions which can be related such as boredom, social codes and also what happens when you put a large bird in this unfamiliar territory.
Ramallah/New York, 2004-2005
Emily Jacir, dividing her time between Ramallah and New York, records in various workplaces in both areas. Playing say, the Rammalah & New York salons side by side it causes the viewer to automatically begin searching for the pecieved differences in wealth and these of course, are practically non existent. You begin watching the 38 min. video over and over again and you can't help but become aware of our cultural prejudices and how we are quite uneducated about the outside of our own 'comfort zones'.
Untitled (Vulture in the Studio), 2002
Joao Onofre presents a warming, somehow interactive video of a vulture which is released into an office and responds to it's new environment. It's a clever little video as it tests your views on animal cruelty but also causes you to realise how much we have changed the planet on a wider scale, how we have altered so much of out planet that other animals such as this vulture don't feel comfortable in what we consider to be a safe, natural environment. It's quite heart breaking to see such a beautiful, powerful animal becoming so unbelievably uncomfortable and trapped. Furthermore, it comments on fears for both, the bird being stuck in a new environment or you as the viewer and your fearing of this large, chaotic animal.
John Wood & Paul Harrison's piece - like Jacir's - draws you in even though it at first may seem to be quite a mundane piece. In 10 x 10 you view 100 office rooms. Every 7 or so rooms, you begin to realise there is a cycle and you are actually more or less being shown a story of 7 offices. As the video progresses things begin to deteriorate, becoming quite chaotic and besides the odd crunch of a light or fall of a filing cabinet, the film is silent, adding to the intensity of the build up. One office worker starts by throwing paper balls into a waste bin but near the end he sets this alit and watches it all burn. Another room having no one in it but a handful of chairs constantly changing position has an almost poltergeist eeriness to it.
The video sucks you in, you watch it two or three times through as to soak in bits you may have missed in the different offices. I think this may be because none of situations ever have a definate end to them, you are left on a cliff hanger - seven cliffhangers. Did the building catch fire? Did the guy get out of his pitch black office? Is he still hiding behind the filing cabinet? Overall it is a very clever piece of never ending storytelling.
My favourite piece, or rather collection, was The Trainee by Pilvi Takala. Over two videos and a powerpoint presentation, Takala documents her employment within a business (of which she took on purely to assist the making of this video), pretending to be a student completing her thesis and gaining work experience. The exhibition guide explains:
"We see how unnerved her collegues are by the trainee's refusal to conform, but we see also how reluctant they are to openly confront her. Only a string of inter-office emails ... reveal what they really think of (her): 'Obviously she has some sort of mental problem.'"
The human brain and conscious have developed & altered so much over time and at the moment a lot of us seem to be at an all time confusion. Unwritten laws and etiquette which no-one is ever able to justify if confronted. In The Trainee, Pilvi tests the invisible boundaries of the workplace and although behind her back her colleagues brains are running riot, nothing changes for Takala except receiving a few dirty looks and someone quizzing her on where her 'work' is - to which she responds with, "I'm doing some brain work." It proves that our current generation are scared to question/confront more than ever before and it is humorous, frustrating and pitiful all at the same time.
This collection of gave me a buzz, it inspired me, because of the extreme Takala went to i.e. getting a different job to do the video, shows her real passion for making reality of her ideas and how important it is to seize opportunity, even if you have to make the opportunity yourself.