Chris Collins - Today’s Modern Office
Today’s Modern Office (2017-ongoing) is the umbrella title for an ever-expanding connected universe of episodic video vignettes, performances, installations, physical artifacts, publications, an interactive VR sandbox, a voice-activated AR chatbot, and more.
The videos exist as POV recordings by a silent, nameless, body-less protagonist (you? me?) from within a virtual office: a stark, white infinite void. As our hero attempts to perform their office work (repetitive acts of physical and emotional labor), they are interrupted by an entire cast of characters. There’s the pesky drones who are always trying to steal your coffee, those lovable scamps! There’s an entire family of helpful-but-needy Alexa-style digital assistants (called “data droplets”). A herd of electric sheep. A rare board game from your childhood. A mysterious, tiny man encased in a block of ice.
It’s a surreal workplace melodrama, an exercise in world-building that’s part speculative sci-fi, part slapstick comedy, part durational performance. It’s been described as “Black Mirror meets Pee Wee’s Playhouse.”
Today’s Modern Office mimics the logic and tone of the internet: darkly comic, self-aware, and awkwardly sincere. It borrows equally from the internet aesthetics of “Let’s Play” videos, twitch streams, tech demos, tutorials, unboxing videos, and “productivity hacks”; as well as from the slapstick sensibility of a silent-film comedy or Looney Tunes cartoon. And by doing so, it explores a particular contemporary moment: A time of anxiety, awkwardness, and unease. It’s a time where the tools that promised to enlighten, connect, and secure us have been weaponized to confuse, alienate, and make our future more tenuous (and is that a feature or a bug?). How do we navigate this terrain? Is it possible to still find moments of expressiveness, connection, and poetry within these confines? Can we imagine a sci-fi future that privileges personhood over productivity, empathy over efficiency, and is that future even possible, or instead just something you’ll only ever be able to experience as a simulation.
Chris Collins: Statement
I’m infinitely fascinated in networked technologies as a cultural force and as a site of many inherent contradictions: a place of beauty and banality, of empowerment and surveillance, of connection and commodification. My work sits at this intersection, attempting to find poetry, humor, and logic from within this awkward squirm of digital culture.
This can manifest in various forms: videos, art games, interactive narratives, virtual environments, performative lectures, research archives. But these disparate forms are united by the same sensibility and logic that unites our relationship with the internet. A delight in the mundane and fixation on the banal. A celebration of the amateur, the collective, and a distrust in hierarchy. A nervous energy with a tendency towards maximalism. Work that is fluid and never complete; always iterating, rebooting, and reconfiguring. And it’s all presented with humor, self-awareness, awkward sincerity, and a sinister streak hiding just beneath the surface. It’s less reflection and more refraction: a fun-house mirror (or instagram filter) that’s experiential rather than presentational. In other words, instead of work *about* the inescapable pervasiveness of networked culture, I make work about how this pervasiveness *feels*, and what it’s like to swim in this sea of contradictions, trying to remain afloat.
‘Going Away.tv’ is an online platform hosting live streamed artists’ moving image 24/7, combining work from a variety of localities and backgrounds. At once embracing and critiquing the democratic nature of streaming platforms such as ‘Twitch’ and ‘Youtube Live’, ‘Going Away.tv’ will continuously present the work of multiple artists working in moving image and broadcasting, randomised but presented sequentially twenty four hours a day. On returning visits to ‘Going Away’, you may not see the same work twice.