To kick off our digital programme 2020 we're bringing you a video of a performance and installation by Glen Ogden - Sand Shifters. Glen joined Assembly House as a studio holder in 2019 and recently created and filmed Sand Shifters in our main project space.
Below, Glen will give you some background to his practice and what this particular artwork explores.
You can find the full film of the performance here, on Youtube. You can see more of Glen's artwork on his instagram - @glenthemaker
Glen Ogden’s socially engaged practice explores the role of the working man in historic and contemporary society, through performance and film - imbued with a sculptural understanding of space, time and locality. He emphasises the work, rest, work, rest mantra of our time, through repetitive and cyclical structures that evidence the physical manifestation of humans as tools.
‘Sand shifters’ (2019) explores the principle of orbiting as a physical manifestation of Human and Tools in the form of a performance. The Performance consists of four workers in slightly varying overalls entering the industrially charged space of Assembly House. A hessian sandbag suspended in the centre is complemented with instruments of industry such as a lifting hook, Buckets, a Ladder and squeegees that cumulatively deliver the atmosphere of manual labour and working Britain.
Each Worker takes position around the industrial centre point; the worker at the bottom of the bag removes the handkerchief that has been stuffed into the hole in the bag referencing the act of clocking in. As the Machine-like operation begins, the four roles are evident; the bucket switcher, lifter, pourer and returner working in harmony to meet their self-fulfilling duties. The division of labour evident only enhances the repetitive essence of the work; alienating them from the process of production and in turn their contribution to the larger system. The faster the workers supply the bag, the faster they must move the sand in order to keep up with the flow of demand. With Efficiency at the forefront of our time, enjoyment of life has been overrun by the effectiveness of life.
‘Sand Shifters’ challenges this by being a self-contained cycle that is being worked efficiently; however, it serves no effective benefit to society. The repetitive and pointless nature of what these workers are striving so hard to achieve comes across as humorous; and enjoyment can be seen between the natural interactions of each performer. I gave instructions on the duties of each role, but not the attitude or feelings they should have towards the task. Extending on Sierra's strategy to critique conflating systems of value & exchange, each worker is on a £10 per/hour wage - in accordance to the length they could endure the intense physical labour. Deepening the debate over the function of the installation and the paradox that it creates by providing employment, deemed positive in society, opposed against it serving no societal contribution other than its own sustainability.
- Glen Ogden
PACKAGE AND DELIVER
To continue our digital programme we've got another 2 instalments from one of our residents artists, Glen Ogden. Read about his latest performances, After You and Package and Deliver, and watch them over on his Youtube channel. You can also see more of his work on Instagram @glenthemaker.
“Package & Deliver” (2020) is a durational performance that explores management failures in a satirical manner, demonstrated in a cast of untrained employees and unbalanced workloads. It consists of four workers captured on a CCTV feed assembling, packing, sealing and dismantling boxes; mimicking the contemporary world of factory work. The context of the work draws from the rapidly growing delivery sector and the once unimaginable ability to have anything you want delivered the next day with just a single click. I oppose this efficient dynamic by removing the end goal of delivering the parcel, endlessly reversing the work of the roles. This deliberately contradicts the research of behavioural economist - Dan Ariley (TED, 2013), using negative motivation as a method to touch on low job satisfaction. By replacing the customer’s desired package with additional packaging, I patronisingly mock Amazon's excessive use of materials in an era of ever growing environmental concern: online retail producing 10,000 tonnes of packaging waste in 2018. (Williams, 2020)
Through the use of an aerial shot to document the unfolding chaos, I strip away the identity of each worker leaving the viewer to associate each performer as their work station; emphasising the reduction of our humanity to a cog in a machine. The notion of oppressed identity underlies the body of work, evident in the “Sand Shifters” (2020) interview sequence; that humorously implements the employee names as a synonym of their role in the team - inspired by ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist ’. We see this reduction unknowingly in society; most initial conversations upon meeting open with one of the first questions as, “What do you do?” Instantly conceived as our working role in society; condensing us into a category and a prejudgement on intelligence, drive, ambition and background - so early on. “Such interactions reinforce the contention that in a fluid industrial society occupation is the principal determinant of social status” (Super, 1976). Drawing attention to this, I grant the viewer a realisation of our instinctive comprehension to impact social change; using meaningful factors to cast judgments of value in society. The body of work employs an industrial setting; an old textile factory. A curatorial decision to transfer the comfort of locality to the working class; whilst serving as a reminder of residual class judgement and exclusivity as the global and social backdrop of contemporary society. I ridicule historical notions of galleries and museums as ‘open spaces’, critiquing institutional accommodation of the wealthy by reversal; granting favour to the unfavoured. I use the aesthetic of CCTV as a means to assist with the display, I exaggerate an essence of privacy present to the viewer; granting them insight to a usually unobserved setting. Window Wipers move from window to window; “After You” (2020) condenses the operation to a single pane, allowing for the output of the futile process to gather at the feet of the performers as a physical measurement of progression. This performance differs from the prior one; as it focuses on how we work, and specifically, our development of techniques revealed through repetitive exploration as a form of learning; this is evident not only in the workplace but also in my own practice.
Artist Glen Ogden, has let us in to the making of his new performance After You Volume 2. Take a look at this short video to find out a little bit about the process and stay tuned for the release of the full, filmed performance on Tuesday 23rd February, 6pm
AFTER YOU- VOLUME 2
Join us for the latest performance by artist, and Assembly House, studio holder, Glen Ogden. The performance was filmed in our project space and also features artist Tom Newhouse. Find out more about the video below, and check out the other artworks in this series on his instagram @glenthemaker
"After You, Volume 2 (2021) consists of two performers resuming their roles as our laboursome protagonists, isolated from the world inside of a 6ft tall cube composed of 8 panes of acetate. They mimic the actions of window wipers, working tirelessly to fulfil an impossible chore with an abundance of enthusiasm and drive for the enduring task at hand.
The cube serves as a physical barrier between performer and viewer and refers to the workers as somewhat of a caged animal at a zoo, exploring the boundaries between work and theatre through entertainment, amusement, and a commercial focusses. This parallel is only deepened by the repetitive essence and cyclical orbiting inherent in the piece, drawing attention to work as our existence, adjusting our body clocks to the needs of our jobs and employers; taking priority over the sun and natural rhythms of the day.
Window wipers move from window to window; After You, Volume 2 operates in specified parameters, allowing for the output of the futile process to gather at the feet of the performers as a physical measurement of progression. Obvious in the performance is the notion of exaggerated emotional labour, through the embodiment of the workers boisterous personas and mannerisms.
The performers put on a show where the visual aesthetic of synchronicity creates a contrast with the mundanity of work; cumulatively delivering an overwhelming sense of exhaustion within the satirical cycle. The cold and isolated working environment translate as this farming of forced human labour, referencing the worker as the battery for the maintenance and development of society."