Yes No Other Options (Part Two)

Yes? No? Other Options
Art Sheffield 08
Yes No Other Options

I just couldn’t leave the topic of our visit to the Millenium Galleries yesterday without telling you about the work of Sheffield based artist Andrew Cooke.

I found it hard to see how some of the art exhibited in the “Art Sheffield 08 Yes No Other Options” event fitted in with the “concept”, but in this case it was very clear. I also thought Andrew Cooke’s work was very funny, which in my opinion is a good thing. I don’t subscribe to the view that says art has to take itself seriously.

1. A Guide to Maintaining Dignity in the Workplace (2007)
Andrew Cooke has actually written a “handbook” about how to resist the demands of your employers and avoid the pressure to perform. It was printed onto individual sheets and you were invited to take copies away with you if you wished.

The handbook covers absenteeism, mechanical sabotage, withholding enthusiasm, playing stupid strategies, procedural sabotage, work avoidance and theft.

Here’s a few examples:

On procedural sabotage: “Do nothing. Procedures are there to be followed. So don’t.”

On work avoidance: “Find a place to hide. Toilets are a good option …. if queried, it may lead to self certifiaction the following day.”
and
“Be seen behaving in a very productive manner by a superior. Then, if possible, disappear, safe in the knowledge that your superior will still believe you to be busy.”

On absenteeism: “Consider using this strategy: during busy periods, when your work is understaffed…”

I thought this was great, so did Mr TLC and the various other visitors we saw there. We all had great fun matching up former colleagues to the various dubious strategies described by Andrew Cooke.

Now, which ones can I try next week…

2. Performance Under Working Conditions (2006)
I almost missed this one, after spending time watching some of the other video installations on offer I very nearly walked past it, but fortunately Mr TLC stopped me and made me put on the headphones and watch.

Andrew Cooke was doing the hoovering. Why is that interesting? Because he was the hoover! It was a video of a man crawling around, nose about an inch from a rather hideous hotel room carpet, making the whooooooooo-whoooooooo-whooooooo vacuum cleaner noise that famously terrorises cats of both the three- and four-legged variety.

Sometimes I feel I don’t “get” modern art, that I don’t take it seriously enough. Everyone else seemed to be nodding sagely at this piece and adopting thoughtful poses. Perhaps they were considering how Andrew Cooke was exploring “the working conditions of manual labour and effect of performing these tasks on the person involved.” Maybe they were considering how he “Asks questions about status, respect, dignity, aspiration.”

I wasn’t, I was clutching my sides as I guffawed at the sight of a man literally doing the hoovering. Brilliant! I like it when people show me how to look at things differently. (And I know what will be happening in our house for the next few weeks if either of us mentions that particular phrase.)

My appreciation of Andrew Cooke’s work may be missing something, but I’ll still be looking out for him in the future.

Links:
A rather more highbrow informed review of “Art Sheffield 08 Yes No Other Options” and a blog post from The Guardian

1 comment to Yes No Other Options (Part Two)

  • This post is somewhat late making an appearance. Someone messed up her html tags, so couldn’t publish, then got cross and stomped off and left it until today. Sorry.

    Could I get away with saying that I was “resisting the pressure to perform” and taking “Other Options”? No? Oh well, worth a try.

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