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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