26 Mar 2015 – 17 May 2015

Cell Project Space

London, United Kingdom


Travel Information

  • bus lines: 26, 48, 55, 106, 236, 254, 277, 388
  • Bethnal Green station
  • Cambridge Heath Road station

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Columbidae takes the administrative labour historically associated with the office as a starting point and includes the work of artists who have traced the various impacts of this work on the body, the mind and the home.


At a moment in which workers are increasingly likely to carry their professions on their bodies at all times, the exhibition includes artwork that negotiates the architectures, tools, equipment or language of the office, pointing to moments of aspiration and depression as work continually collapses into life. 

The historical starting point for the exhibition is in 1965, when Barbara T. Smith leased a Xerox machine and installed it in her home following the rejection of her print proposal from a prominent lithographers in Los Angeles. Photocopying whatever was available to her in her kitchen cupboards and garden, as well as her own body and children’s toys, Smith created Xerox poetry sets and printed collages that formally experimented with this new technology. Smith’s dual roles as both a Pasadena housewife and an emerging artist in the mid-1960s literally collide in the prints, performing the tensions between public and private space, and paid and unpaid labour.

Dena Yago’s flatbed scanner images, including high resolution capture of lemons, apples or copies of The New York Times, have a clear dialogue with Smith’s Xeroxes in that they also employ the tools and objects readily available to the artist in her working environment. A poem made by the artist on her BlackBerry in the elevator of the legal firm where she worked, also installed in the exhibition, was made as a strategy of blocking awkward elevator conversation, whilst also fitting a writing space into the restrictions of a day job. Formally exploring the phenomenon of the office startup, Essex Olivares’ Office Riddim is a performance installation in an administrative environment that demonstrates the stress and virtuosity of enforced collaboration, flexibility, creativity, and other such corporate directives by employing a choreography in which water coolers and bulldog clips are collaborators. Finally Mélanie Matranga creates seductive sceneographies such as doors that hang from the ceiling out of reach, and unfired clay sculptures that summon the ‘soft’ environments and ‘friendly’ tools epitomizing the realities of homeworking conditions for freelancers today. Her subjects are seen stressed out on sofas, covered in wires, chain-smoking, drinking, exhausted. 

Following her inclusion in the group exhibition Barbara T. Smith’s full Poetry Set will be shown in the gallery from 28th May –  5th July 2015

Columbidae is the name for the bird family that includes doves and pigeons. 

Laura McLean-Ferris wishes to acknowledge a number of artists, curators and writers whose conversations were instrumental to developing this exhibition, in particular Tyler Coburn, Josh Kline, Nicola Lees and Cally Spooner.


Laura McLean-Ferris


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