Overtime: Art and the Office – 2014

OVERTIME: ART AND THE OFFICE, 2014

Overtime An exhibition that engages an international mix of 25 artists addressing an abundance of vacant commercial units to re-imagine a city’s possible futures. Wellington Park House, Leeds.

Artists: Lily Ackroyd-Willoughby, Mike Ainsworth, Anachron-Gen, Alice Bradshaw, Lydia Catterall, Spike Dennis, Natalie Drenth, Emma Hardaker, Phill Hopkins, Edward Hurst, Luc Jones, Ellie MacGarry, Bess Martin, Tom McGinn, Emma Moody-Smith, Julia Miorin, Shanie Mor, OFFCUT collaborative, Leo Plumb, Ned Pooler, Stanley Quaia, Alec Shepley, Will Turner, Philip Welding, Matt Wheeldon.

A project curated by SEIZE, Leeds

La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même.
In the essay ‘The Uses of Democracy’ (1992) Jacques Rancière observed that participation in what can refer to as democratic regimes is often reduced to simply filling up the spaces left empty by power. He claimed that genuine participation involves an ‘unpredictable subject’.[1]

The unpredictable subject in this case is the Offices of the Art School.

Named after Duchamp’s famous work from 1915-1925, this proposal represents a six-year project – the relocation of Lincoln School of Art.

The project was to move the School, offices, studios, workshops etc, from the various idiosyncratic buildings in various parts of Lincoln’s Cathedral Quarter that the School had inhabited and ‘grown into’ over many years, into the new purpose-built building in September 2013.

My participation in this project and documenting the process, became a ‘living as form’ and there emerged a new strand of my practice and the most remarkable images that came out of it are those taken after the tutors and students moved out, leaving vacant office spaces – emptied out save for those few remnants of our collective endeavours.

The strange ‘institutional hilarity’ of these images (Duchamp referred to his Bachelors picture as hilarious) goes some way to depict the apparatus of the Art School Office stripped bare – they are at once alien and yet entirely familiar.

These offices are places where the world of the Art School (and the labours/ideals of its artists, students and studios) meets the world of ‘the Institution’ and its imperatives.

Often forgotten or overshadowed by the studio culture, the offices are to many the spaces where we encounter a continuous ‘dialogue of tensions’ between these two worlds – a place to resist and to broker / nurture the continued richness and vigour of artistic practice. These are the places where we maintain ‘visuality’ the right of art to fail[2] – often felt by staff and students to be at odds with the success and results driven culture of university business.

To paraphrase Claire Bishop, these spaces offer alternative frameworks for thinking the artistic and situation simultaneously; for both art and institution are not to be reconciled or collapsed, but sustained in continual tension.”[3]
The office is often seen in opposition to the studio: industrialised tasks, the management of data, hourly pay, and rarely as the site for ‘ultimate’ creative freedom.

The banal or ‘everydayness’ of these office images belies the dynamic tension beneath.
[1] Jacques Rancière The Uses of Democracy in Rancière, On the Shores of Politics, London: Verso (2007) p.60

[2] See also: The Importance of Failure – a Bettakultcha Experiment, https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-importance-of-failure-a-bettakultcha-experiment

[3] Claire Bishop 2012, Participation and Spectacle: Where Are We Now? in Nato Thompson (Ed.) 2012 Living as Form: Socially Engaged Art From 1991-2011 Creative Time

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