No Time to Lose: A Search for Work / Life Balance


A hammock, but not enough me-time for artist by notimetolose

This great review was published in The Times on Tuesday, July 22, 2008.

Visit the link above to view this article online; the text is re-posted below in case the article is only available temporarily.

A hammock, but not enough me-time for artist
Mike Wade, The Times, July 22, 2008

A man lies sleeping in a hammock alongside a vast block of ice, whose meltwater is slowly draining into empty whisky bottles. By night, he awakes and spends all his time making labels for the bottles, using images which have been generated on a computer by signals from his brain.

For enthusiasts, Tobaron Waxman’s creation at the Peacock Visual Arts gallery in Aberdeen is an eloquent protest against the dominance of work in our lives, as it encroaches remorsely into our “me-time”. For those of a more sceptical bent, it is just another example of what happens when you let a conceptual artist off the leash.

Mr Waxman, an “inter-disciplinary time-based artist” from Toronto in Canada, appeared modest about his creation, refusing to pose in his hammock for photographers who had arrived to record his latest work. However, no one could dispute that he has applied the full force of his mind to Block of Ice + 1/60.

Seeking to demonstrate how the tyranny of labour intrudes into every second of our lives, over the next four days Mr Waxman will attach electrodes to his head before he drifts off to sleep. These will measure his alpha wave activity – electromagnetic oscillations inside his head – while he is unconscious, creating a form of biofeedback.

The data in turn will be transformed by specialised software package and will be used to power a pre-set internet search for pictures of labouring people on a computer located near by. Finally, the images that are collected will be projected on to the 80cm³ ice block, creating a “dynamically changing collage animated by my brainwaves,” said the artist.

Paradoxically, although visitors to the gallery will only see Mr Waxman asleep, he said his work sends a message of support for workers in Aberdeen and the world over.

“This is very much a gesture in empathy with the exploited, whether the labourer is an office worker, or someone sifting through garbage in a landfill, it is meant to remind us here about the privilege which we enjoy – and to connect us with workers across the world as part of a global ecology of labour,” he said.

Over the four days of the show, the block of ice is expected to melt away. During that time its meltwater will

be filtered, and drained into empty whisky bottles, donated by the Glenfiddich distillery. Mr Waxman’s own waking activities begin after dark, when he will make labels from the image of labour, to stick on the bottles, forming an edition of 500 of “unique sculptural pieces” for sale. All proceeds will be sent to a drinking water charity which operates in the Middle East.

Mr Waxman, who is in his thirties, studied at the Art Instiute of Chicago and produced an early version of his latest work ten years ago. That first installation had been a response to the disabling impact of a sleeping disorder, he revealed. Suffering from extreme exhaustion, inflammation of the joints and unable to walk without the support of sticks, the artist found that the problems of disability were not recognised by any aspect of society.

“In trying to describe how I was feeling I said I felt like a block of ice, to help people outside of my body understand that feeling of stasis of being frozen in place and not being able to produce, in the way that people are expected to be productive,” he said.

Mr Waxman added that though he was now physically fit, the experience had become “a palette for my artmaking.”

Block of Ice + 1/60 is at the Peacock Visual Arts, 21 Castle Street, Aberdeen, until Saturday. Admission free.

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Back to overwork but keeping the NTTL ball rolling! by notimetolose

It’s ironic, to say the least, that I’d find myself facing the same ol’ overwork “traps” so shortly after presenting an exhibition about work/life balance. Old habits die hard and my habit of taking on too much, and not finding sufficient balance between the things I have to do, the things I need to do, and the things I really want to do, is still firmly in place. That being said, I don’t want to give the impression that it’s been all work and no play… I have indeed managed to find time to spend traveling and to gather with amazing friends. Still, balance is a tough thing to achieve and, as much as multi-tasking promises efficiency, the truth is that we can only really do one thing at a time, and we can only really be in one place at a time.

This might explain why I haven’t had much time to work on this blog. I’d still really like to comment on the last phase of the exhibition, Tobaron Waxman’s new media installation and performance, “Block of Ice +1/60”, and I will definitely do that as soon as possible. In short, I am delighted to report that his project was very well received. In a few minutes, I’ll repost the article that appeared in The Times and, in a few days, I hope to share some of the documentation that was collected during the performance.

Although No Time to Lose at PVA is now in the past, related activity is still underway. I am still chatting with other possible venues, and I am working with PVA to produce a follow-up publication. These are all very exciting things for us, and you can be sure I’ll keep you posted on these and other developments!!

All the best,
Milena



“Working Overtime” by Leslie Supnet by notimetolose
August 31, 2008, 5:45 pm
Filed under: artists, contemporary art, ideas | Tags: , , ,

Leslie Supnet is a Winnipeg-based artist who works in a variety of media, including drawing and animation.

A few days ago, I noticed a tiny version of the drawing below posted on another website as an avatar. I asked if it related to circuit bending, which I know is another one of Leslie’s creative interests.

Much more interestingly, this piece is called “Working Overtime” and, through conversation, I learned that it was something Leslie penned while developing an image to accompany an article about child labour in Québec. Reflecting on what could be the worst possible thing to work on while working overtime, it occurred to her that fixing a punch clock in order to punch out of work, would definitely count. Not only is this character’s overtime effort not being recorded, but he must also fix the clock quickly enough to go home, thereby minimizing the amount of time he is being exploited. That’s all kinds of undesirable pressure!

Leslie informed me that she wanted to make a statement about time and work, and in addition, how time is critical to understanding and coming to terms with the nature of work.

To view more of Leslie Supnet’s thought provoking work, visit: http://www.sundaestories.com/


Leslie Supnet, Working Overtime, Ink on paper, 2008.



Are lunch breaks really for wimps? by notimetolose
August 11, 2008, 9:03 pm
Filed under: news articles | Tags: , ,

Thanks for sending this along, Monika!

Reposted from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7549300.stm

Lunch at the desk

Look familiar?

Only one in six workers takes a regular lunch break, says new research. And one consequence of the credit crunch is that breaks are getting even shorter as job insecurity increases.

Are you reading this article while eating a sandwich at your desk?

If so, you are not alone. Research by human resources firm Chiumento has found that only 16% of employees regularly take a “proper” lunch break. By that, they mean about an hour’s break away from their desk at least three times a week.

Andrew Hill, who helped conduct the study, says the British are deserting the lunch break in increasing numbers.

“Employees are struggling to keep on top of to-do lists and think the answer is to work harder, eating a sandwich at their desk as opposed to taking a full lunch break, and also not having sufficient breaks during the rest of the day.

WHAT DO YOU DO AT LUNCHTIME?

Tell us how you spend your lunch break, using the form below Send photos of yourself or your lunch to yourpics@bbc.co.uk or MMS to 61124 with the subject “LUNCHTIME”.  We will feature the best on the Magazine index

“But these breaks are essential for staff to perform at their best and cope with the daily pressures of work. Managers should be encouraging staff to take lunch breaks – their performance, and ultimately the business, may suffer otherwise.”

A lunch break, he says, achieves three things: it helps the mind and body recharge; it enables people to step back and focus on what’s important; and it makes them feel valued by their employer. And – just like after a sleep – solutions that seemed out of reach to a tired mind can suddenly surface to a refreshed one.

It helps when the sun comes out…

Research a few years ago put the average lunch break at 27 minutes and Cary Cooper, occupational psychologist at Lancaster University, says that in the current economic climate it’s getting even shorter.

“The vast majority of people are having lunch at their desk while working. That’s the average person now. Very rarely do they get out of the office.

“If senior management create a culture that lunch is for wimps, it’s counterproductive. We all need breaks.”

It’s important to take breaks with colleagues – sitting in the park or outside a pub, going out to buy sandwiches – because good social relationships lead to good working relationships, he says.

‘Laziest in Europe’

“People feel they have to get to work early, stay late and not take lunch breaks and I think it’s going to get worse because of job insecurity. People will want to show more commitment and that means working through their lunch and staying late.

“Although there are times when people have to work through, they should try to get out two or three times a week for a good hour, particularly in summer. Be brave, because in the end you will be judged by your output, not by your ‘presenteeism’.”

In the 1970s the British were the laziest men of Europe. Now they are considered the workaholics of Europe, thanks to an adoption of the American work ethic in the mid-80s, says Professor Cooper. But tellingly, productivity per capita in the UK remains lower than many of its European neighbours.

In many cases it is out of the hands of employees to wander off for an hour, because their firms only allow a maximum of 30 minutes for lunch.

But Peter Clayton, 42, who works in human resources at pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca, spends three or four lunchtimes a week running, for between 30 and 80 minutes.

“I definitely feel refreshed and mentally sharper when I come back. If I don’t get out at lunchtime, the day just feels like one constant grind all the way through and I really like the way it breaks up the day.”

It helps that his firm has a running club and a flexible working environment, which means he can put on his trainers between meetings.

And there is the added incentive – not shared by every workplace – of having the beautiful Cheshire countryside, including Alderley Edge, on the doorstep.



A few more book recommendations… by notimetolose
August 6, 2008, 11:41 am
Filed under: activism, ideas | Tags: ,

Thanks Monika!

Kusnet, David. Love the Work, Hate the Job: Why America’s Best Workers Are Unhappier Than Ever. Wiley, 2008.

From the Inside Flap…

Why are so many of America’s most educated, skilled, and committed workers angrier than ever?

In Love the Work, Hate the Job, author David Kusnet follows workers through four conflicts in the trailblazing city of Seattle. At Boeing, aircraft engineers and technicians conducted the longest and largest strike by professionals in private industry in U.S. history, but their picket signs said they were “On Strike for Boeing.” At Microsoft, thousands of workers holding short-term positions founded their own Web site to protest being “perma-temps.” Still, they were almost as upset about their problems testing software as they were about their own precarious prospects. At a local hospital, workers complained that patient care was getting short shrift and organized with the nation’s fastest-growing union. And at Kaiser Aluminum, during a labor-manage-ment conflict that dragged on for two years, workers allied themselves with environmentalists to fight cutthroat corporate tactics.

Like their counterparts across the country, these workers cared about much more than money. Americans increasingly like the work they do but not the conditions under which they do it. In fact, a growing number of employees believe they care more about the quality of their products and services than the executives they work for. That’s why the workplace conflicts of the future will focus on model employees who were forced to become malcontents because they “care enough to get mad.”

Coming in the aftermath of the mass protests at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in 1999, these conflicts point out the paradox of globalization. U.S. companies can compete most successfully by improving quality instead of just cutting costs. But penny-pinching practices can prevent their best workers from doing their best work, fueling workplace conflicts and depriving businesses of their single greatest advantage.

With powerful storytelling, revealing detail, and compelling analysis, Love the Work, Hate the Job offers provocative insights into today’s workplaces, tomorrow’s headlines, and Americans’ too-often thwarted aspirations to do their jobs better.

* * *

Bell, Daniel. Work and Its Discontents. Beacon Press, 1956.

I wasn’t able to find an summary of this book, but check out the date it was published. We are clearly not facing a new crisis; we’re just coming to the end of our ropes…



Excerpts from our June 13 roundtable discussion by notimetolose
August 6, 2008, 11:09 am
Filed under: artists, curating, exhibition, ideas, interactive, videos | Tags: , , , ,

Thank you to Adam Proctor and Sean James Fraser, as well as the other staff members of Peacock Visual Arts for facilitating and documenting our roundtable discussion on June 13. The following video offers a 14 minute collection of highlights from our hour-long conversation.

Feel free to keep the conversation going by posting comments!

Edit: Hmmmm… wordpress won’t let me embed the video, so here’s the url…

No Time To Lose – Artist’s Talk from 3sixty-tv on Vimeo.