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.


  1. Maggie,
    Bridging the formal aspects of the exhibition with your interpretation, as there is little explanitory copy in the exhibition space itself, is extremely valuable. Having seen the show, I knew already that the piece was mechanized desk chairs. However, this is not made clear at the beginning of your review and may lead to confusion. I would restructure and put a description of the piece after your first sentence. Also, “Simply, they must play” would read more powerfully as its own sentence outside of parentheses and I would remove “however” after “More darkly.” Otherwise, fantastic work!

  2. Maggie, your interpretation of this exhibition hits on many of themes Fischer's work very successfully. Of course the work could be seen from many vantage points, so more exist. What I was hoping for in your review was to mention how these inanimate objects come to life (acting like animals), pointing at how technology is slowly coming alive. In this context it becomes very exciting, thinking how everyday objects could develop more intimate relationships with humans. On the other side, you did allude to relevant concerns such as how these "living chairs" appear to be a representation of the period we're creating where technology is creating a 'useless class.' I felt you could have come to describe the exhibition sooner in your review however, generally, I appreciate the clarity of your thinking.

  3. I heard recently from a friend that Urs Fisher thought of the idea when him and his staff were just rolling around on office chairs, bored, trying to think of ideas for new work. This resonates to me in a funny way; that it’s possible that the seed of this show is born in boredom, wonder, a childlike feeling of scooting around in an office chair letting ones mind wander. It makes sense too bc Urs is hesitant to explain in too much detail what this exhibition means. Perhaps it’s as simple, childlike and playful as that. The randomness of a group of people scuttling around on chairs waiting for inspiration to hit. It’s essentially the randomness and ridiculousness of human life.