Thursday, September 20, 2018
Urs Fischer's PLAY at Gagosian
Jubilant at first, PLAY by Urs Fischer has sinister undertones. Walking into Gagosian, visitors are encouraged to interact with nine office chairs, equipped with motors, autonomously exploring the gallery space. Initially, weaving in and out of the chairs’ whimsical performance is delightful: their dance, choreographed by Madeline Holland, feels spontaneous as they react to each other and passersby. The piece soon begins to take on a darker feel as you bend to investigate the cameras attached to the chairs, count the many sensors on the ceiling, and witness the ominous room each chair is sent once it begins to lose battery. Considering all these features, PLAY reads as a reflection on automation and the workplace. Though Fischer recoils at attempts to tidily explain the meaning behind his work, the specific choice to use office chairs as his objects of mechanized manipulation seems intentional. So ubiquitous are these ergonomic chairs in present-day offices, their presence immediately brings to mind soul-deadening jobs in fluorescent-lit buildings. Holland's choreography lends itself to this interpretation as well: the chairs move like phantom workers navigating an office. With extraordinary technology behind the humanity of the chairs, PLAY examines contemporary concerns of artificial intelligence replacing human consciousness in the workforce.