Coworkers I, 2021
ZZ plant, shirt, clay
Coworkers II, 2021
Coworkers III, 2021
Pit-fired clay, grass
Work/Life Balance, 2021
Tutti-frutti sprinkled donut, sushi rice, avocado, salmon, tuna, roe, raddish, chives, starflower.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Cover
Oh, how we've missed going to the office. But what is it that we miss when we miss the office? We've kept working, we've brought office parts home with us, box by box, frame by frame. From Microsoft's office package to big computer screens to back support chairs to frames of mind.
What didn't we bring? The meetings or coffee machine conversations? The bosses still found ways of getting us to listen to them talk for hours, and small talk was just as awkward on zoom. How about the sense of purpose, or how the office grants us time to waste? Even in crisis we had to find ways of distracting ourselves from the tasks we had to do. Did we forget to bring everyday routines, or the way it made weekends something special? Anything can turn into a habit, and in the tedium of lockdown any little difference could seem extraordinary.
When we were young my brother made himself an office under the stairs in our home. He would sit there and do office work. He was playing work. Before learning how to read and write he would type random strings of letters into Microsoft word.
Some might say such play is preparation for work. Children are training themselves into becoming useful citizens. To anyone who has spent time in an office this should seem nonsensical. Kids pretend to work, but so do adults most of the time. Adults not only pretend to work when we're trying to appear busy to avoid getting new assignments even though we have nothing to do. In an office, everyone pretends to work even when they are working.
By putting on fancy clothes and going somewhere that requires key cards to get in and has plants that someone else waters, and floors that someone else cleans, we can show each other that we are busy and important. But the lockdown removed such make-believe.
We were stuck home in our pyjamas, sitting under the stairs in our homes, typing words on a computer without value for anyone besides those involved in the activity. We couldn't help but notice how we're just playing work and always have been. What you're missing when you miss the office is the feeling that you're not just playing work.
There are other things we could play instead of work. There are even other forms of work we could play: Handwork, footwork, craftwork, artwork. And there are other workers, besides office workers. Even besides human workers, there are other beings doing the work for us. I've missed the office, and all the beings playing here.
Artwork by Andreas Ervik, installed in an office at Oslo Science Park.
Photos by Siv Dolmen.