ExhibitionHerbert Read Gallery

Despite Efficiency: Labour

Inefficiency can be understood as an effort without reward; as the negative result of a system designed to produce a benefit, to be profitable. In relation to present conditions of labour, the dialectics of efficiency/inefficiency is at the core of new working paradigms. From life-hackers who propose efficient uses of technology to minimize the time spent at work, to the vindication of sleep and its power to resist capital’s constant demand of attention, and from the encumbrance of the artist’s job –self-motivated, flexible, instable– as exemplary, to the reliance of many creative industries on the exploitation of unpaid work (internships), labour is today intimately connected to debates around (in)efficiency. Taken this panorama, the project Despite Efficiency: Labour aspires to create a (working) space where these ideas can be played out in different formats and shapes, independently of their utility.     

Installation view. Video by Marilou Lemmens and Richard Igbhy

Despite Efficiency: Labour consists of two phases. The first one involves a guest architecture and design studio collaborating with students to transform the Herbert Read Gallery into a stage for (in)efficient work. Once built, and over a 3-week period, the transformed gallery will host a number of live performances, videos and other time-based projects presented by a group of international artists interested in situations and models of unprofitable, futile or ineffective work.

Installation view. Video by Greta Alfaro

The final exhibition design playfully inserts a stable of modern office construction, a suspended ceiling grid, into the space of the gallery and is a result of a collaborative working practice that actively involved the students from Canterbury School of Architecture as both participants and accomplices. Hanging 1.5m off the floor, visitors to the exhibition are invited to take an information sheet from a filing cabinet, sit on an office chair and propel themselves underneath the ceiling into an artificially lit world. Openings in the grid of the ceiling allow visitors to stand up and enjoy a series of different micro environments that exhibit the video works.

Additional openings in the ceiling allow visitors to experience the naturally lit world above the suspended ceiling. Through the creation of a number of viewpoints & vistas, visitors can look through binoculars placed by each opening and observe the detail of a series of laser-cut 'narrative' cladding panels. Each 'narrative' cladding panel was individually designed by each of the participating students and explores the history of office design.

Installation view

Exhibition design by Aberrant Architecture + Interior Architecture and Design BA (Hons) students, UCA

Curated by Emma Braso

Video works by Marilou Lemmens & Richard Igby, KpD collective, Terry Perk and Ed Oliver, Greta Alfaro and Stéphane Trois Carres et al.

Calendar of performances (all events are at the Herbert Read Gallery, unless otherwise specified):

21 November, 6-8pm: Opening with performance by Marilou Lemmens and Richard Igby

25-26 November: Action by Fermin Jimenez Landa (times to be confirmed)

3 December, 10am-5pm: Performance by Mirko Nikolic

10 December: “Name Readymade” by Janez Janša, Janez Janša and Janez Janša @ Turner Contemporary, Margate (times to be confirmed)

11 December, from 5pm: Closing party organized by art collective Salon Flux

Performance by Mirko Nikolic

The project has been supported by Recreate and ICR, two initiatives selected under the European Cross-border Cooperation Programme Interreg IV A France (Channel) – England, co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund. With additional support from Accion Cultural Espannola.


Images: (1) Video by Marilou Lemmens and Richard Ibghy, (2) Video by Greta Alfaro, (3) Installation view, (4) Performance by Mirko Nikolic.

Visitor's Information

For opening hours, visit the Herbert Read Gallery page.