The Art Of Not Working

The Art Of Not Working


I don’t remember what the
starting point was, I mean… I guess in the beginning I realised there were
different sounds to different typewriters. This is the artist Ignacio Uriarte
at his studio in Berlin but his story begins in an office. I always worked at industrial companies A couple of different ones actually where
he was doing standard routine office work and it wasn’t going that great. I was pretty bad at what I was doing For a number of reasons. I’m not a very good multitasker,
I’m pretty distracted, I’m a dreamer, I tend to procrastinate things that I don’t
wanna do or that I’m not very good in doing Which put him in a difficult position. I started to try to find a way out. Until one day he noticed something
interesting at another office. I saw a guy whose only job
was to find your file. The first thing that would come to mind
is, let’s order them alphabetically. But he didn’t. When somebody came there and wanted his
file he had to go through the whole pile. This was his only job. If he made it too
fast he would have had nothing to do, or maybe he would have gotten another
job, maybe he didn’t want another job. So this to me was an incredible
image, you know, this idea of somebody being inefficient on
purpose—to prolong the time of work— was a very extreme and strange idea. So he starts to experiment
with this concept— doing office work but without
the actual work— and if you’re wondering why
then you’re not alone. Everybody was saying like why would you
do that, why would you go home after sitting for 8-9 hours in the office
and sit for another 2-3 hours again in front of a computer doing Excel
labyrinths, you know. Makes no sense. But then a couple of years later
he got an art residency and quit his job. Suddenly, I could call myself an artist because
this residency was sort of established Hangar it’s called in Barcelona. I had no money whatsoever so it didn’t start like a natural thing
it was really more like, I need to do it, I need to draw now, there’s nothing
else I can do with no money. I was in these studios and somebody said-
well, I like the sound of the scribbling, you know, and I recorded the sound and now
it’s a piece that’s called Bic Monochromes and it comes with a soundtrack that
you can listen over headphones while you stand in front of the drawing. Work. There’s a word that’s used
much more than it’s understood. There’s a strange air in offices, there’s
a strange mood, a strange light, and you feel locked up very often. At about the same time each day,
the morning mail is distributed. Sorting it is one of
Jean’s responsibilities. So many people spend so much
of their adult lives in offices but because it is so obvious and
unremarkable—it’s hard to even notice it. It’s not something that you pay attention
to ’cause that’s how it is and what it is. But if you’ve ever had a Kafkaesque
moment when you asked yourself- what kind of existences is this, this is the
kind of question that his work is about. Well, I don’t really have good
memories from my work past but I would be lying if I said that
this is torture it’s not only torture. I enjoy it and I think it’s fundamentally
different cause it’s unproductive. This is out of free will and it doesn’t
have to obey the laws of efficiency. And surprisingly most of the
time—it feels a lot less about the frustrations of daily routine and a
lot more about capturing moments between moments of daydreaming
and spacing out, or as he put it, your mind is relaxing. You could be in the cubicle and do it and
everybody would think you would be working. It looks like work, but it’s not. It’s like a break, it’s like, you know,
a vacuum, without efficiency, without, yeah, doing what
you’re supposed to do. So now we come to the
typewriters, until recently the most important machine
in the modern office. Typewriters were the soundtrack
of offices, for example in films— when you enter a press room or an office—
there’s always this announcing typewriter sound and then I thought wouldn’t it
be nice to make an Homage to the sound of typewriters with a human voice
and then immediately this guy popped up. He was—to my generation—our first
encounter with beat-boxing. I googled his name and found a manager of
his and wrote him offering him a lot of money and then they said yes, of course,
and then it took me a year to find the money to pay him.
Before I could do it. And when you think about it, typewriters
became so synonymous with office routine that even when computers arrived,
we basically never gave them up. During the Industrial Revolution when
they introduced the weaving machine there were these guys that would destroy the
machines, they would fight the machines ’cause they were these experts in weaving and
they knew– this machine will destroy my job. There’s a good reason that in 84′
when the first PC came out it slipped inside the shell of a typewriter. Take away the typewriter of the secretary or
of the accountant and put a computer instead, you would not feel—oh this is the unlimited
machine that will change the world and this company will not need me anymore in
the future ’cause they have this computer, you know— it felt very familiar. a computer is not a super typewriter
it’s definitely not a super typewriter, but they made us sort of understand it is. These days he continues to
explore the power of routines with a kind of excessive
audio installation. It’s basically a male voice
counting every second, but instead of using one number per
second he uses one syllable per second. as time goes by the numbers get longer
and longer and you advance less and less. A work shift would be 8 hours and
in this work you count for 8 hours. The way it turned out, I feel, is very hypnotic
or meditative—meditation on time. Here, in this matrix you have
several sequences, you know, you have diagonal and horizontal
and vertical sequences. This work is about mixing colors and mixing colours is something that is
not allowed for an office employee, in this case we do it by overlaying… It seems like a very limiting choice, to
frame the confinements of the office using just office supplies but that,
says Ignacio, is just the point. It’s like a bird that is inside a cage and
flies from one corner to the other and does periods and tries everything you can
do inside this very small space and what does the bird learn from that? It learns the limits of its own freedom.
So that’s what I do, I stay inside the cubicle and I try to
find every imaginable language and every imaginable gesture or artwork that might derive from routines
that take place in the office these are the colors that you
can use in Excel, these are the width of an Excel cell,
these are, I don’t know, these are all the letters
in an alphabet these are all the second in an 8 hour
shift so there’s all… you know, it’s in a way… the options are limited. Some of the work is funny
and some is quite abstract but there is one idea that
is always there— the feeling that there’s great freedom
in the moments when you’re just— not doing what you’re supposed to. I couldn’t really say what else is
there to do if not to work, I mean, I don’t have the
alternative really. maybe what you might take out of it is to
see all the things that you have around you as a playground for art
and maybe even paying more attention to… to the
gestures that you do on a daily basis. Next up—season one
continues in episode three: What would have happened had he
only stayed standing, not doing anything? in which we learn how doing nothing
in a time of crisis can save the day.

Dereck Turner

1 thought on “The Art Of Not Working

  1. Nico Navarro says:

    I remember the concept of anti-work

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *