Time and Motion: Redefining Working Life at FACT

Cohen Van Balen - 75 Watt
Cohen Van Balen – 75 Watt

Words by Rachel Tillett

Time and Motion: Redefining Working Life is an exhibition which aims to refine our understanding of working life. The exhibition looks towards the ability of contemporary art to ask urgent questions about some of our most basic needs in relation to work. The statement ‘Eight hours labour, eight hours recreation and eight hours rest’ by Robert Owens sums up the exhibition as a question to the audience: what is a healthy work-life balance?

Oliver Walker’s One Pound (2013) was a piece which interested me. The work was made up of six HD videos; each screen depicted various jobs in relation to wages. Each video lasts as long as it takes for that person to earn £1. Videos vary in length from hours for people working in the agricultural industry, to seconds for those working in finance. The stark contrast is shocking and eye opening. I loved the concept behind this piece because of its simplicity and in turn the shocking realisation of the unequal distribution of money throughout the world.

Revital Cohen and Tuuur Van Balen’s 75 Watt (2013) had me intrigued because of its unique context. 75 Watt seeks to explore the nature of mass production in a contemporary globalised economy. For this piece, a product with no useful purpose was designed specifically for production in China. Its singular function was to choreograph a dance performed by the labourers manufacturing it. The piece was curated with a large scale screen playing the video, with nine of the useless objects placed in front. The objects were white geometrical metal shapes with holes in various places; as intended, I perceived the objects were created for aesthetic reasons, with no function. The gestures and movements the Chinese labourers were making were rhythmic, and the noises they made also set a beat for the dance-like movements. The robotic and mathematical actions highlighted the mundane, repetitive work life that the labourers deal with day in day out. I enjoyed this piece and liked the use of dance and choreography within the piece. Unlike other videos in the exhibition, I also liked the use of sculpture alongside the video art, and strongly believe these metal structures could be exhibited individually as a piece of art in their own right.

The only negative I have to say about this exhibition was the way in which it was curated. I found the darkened rooms throughout made it hard to read captions explaining the artwork, and I also found it difficult to view pieces hung on the walls. Nevertheless, a good exhibition; the content was varied and interesting with many interactive pieces which engaged the audience.

Time and Motion: Redefining Working Life continues at FACT until 9 March 2014