AboutVarious Small Fires is pleased to present Liz Magic Laser’s third solo show with the gallery, People Per Hour. The exhibition marks the U.S. debut of Laser’s most recent institutional works, Handle / Poignée (2018), commissioned by Centre Pompidou for MOVE Festival, Paris and In Real Life (2019), commissioned by FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), Liverpool, UK. Both of Laser’s recent projects examine the techno-utopian logic of the scientifically managed self. The artist hijacks the contemporary drive to maximize efficiency, examining the sociality that hyper-productivity forges.
In Real Life is an immersive reality show installation that follows the lives of five gig-workers from around the world who rely on work they find through online platforms such as PeoplePerHour, Upwork and Fiverr. From a customer service voiceover artist in Hong Kong to a whiteboard animator in Nigeria, each episode follows a freelancer’s journey as they take part in a “30 Day Biohack Challenge” intended to optimize their quality of life and work. Filming via webcams and mobile phones, these reality stars document their struggles as they undergo a transformational development program using wellness tracking apps and tech devices. Each was advised by a tech savvy life coach, Louise Papadopoullos, who trained at the Bulletproof Human Potential Institute, as well as a psychic tarot reader, Count Marco, who offers his services on Fiverr and PsychicMix.com. The cast members were also hired as the creative crew, producing the five episodes of the show in collaboration with Laser and journalist Laura Geisswiller. A new score for this iteration of In Real Life was developed with the musician Gobby and will also exist as a sound installation in the gallery’s exterior sound wall.
Projected in the second gallery, Handle / Poignée is a video work in which Laser’s “Movement Consultants” guide viewers through therapeutic choreographies developed to empower four archetypes: the disciplinary parent, the nurturing parent, the rebellious child, and the obedient child, loosely drawn from George Lakoff’s book Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think (1996). The consultants inhabit a colorful Venn diagram stage that symbolizes the overlapping spheres of home, work, and politics in Laser’s political cosmology. This piece is informed by the corporate consulting firm Insights Discovery, which offers a Jungian personality test to categorize workers into four psychometric “color energies” that facilitate seamless communication for an efficient workplace. The choreographies were developed with dancers and movement therapists specialized in Body Mind Centering and shamanic dance practices. Laser’s somatic diagnostics refer to specific political moments such as Trump and Macron’s prolonged handshake (Paris, 2018). The live interactive iteration of Handle / Poignée was staged daily in the lobby of the Centre Pompidou, where museum-goers took Laser’s “personality test” and participated in movement therapy treatments.
As the exhibition title suggests, People Per Hour continues Laser’s exploration of the effects of humanizing corporate computing models and dehumanizing work relations. Platform capitalism has been a boon for many, including young people in developing countries who are able to pursue higher incomes in creative fields. Now, each of us can be our own boss, creative agent, and mental factory. But success in these enterprises proliferates a vision of the self that, perhaps absurdly, correlates performance metrics to personal fulfillment, and vice versa.
Liz Magic Laser is a multimedia video and performance based artist from New York City. Her work intervenes in semi-public spaces such as bank vestibules, movie theaters and newsrooms, involving collaborations with actors, surgeons, political strategists and motorcycle gang members. Her recent work explores the efficacy of new age techniques and psychological methods active in both corporate culture and political movements. Laser’s work has been shown at venues such as Kunsthalle Baden-Baden (2019); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2018); Metro Pictures, New York (2018) Malmö Konsthall, Sweden (2017); the Swiss Institute (2016); the Whitney Museum of American Art (2015); Lisson Gallery, London (2013); the Performa 11 Biennial, New York (2011); and MoMA PS1, New York (2010). She has had solo exhibitions at CAC Brétigny, France (2017); Jupiter Artland Foundation, Scotland (2017); Kunstverein Göttingen, Germany (2016); Mercer Union, Toronto (2015); Wilfried Lentz, Rotterdam, the Netherlands (2015); Various Small Fires, Los Angeles (2015); Paula Cooper Gallery, New York (2013) the Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster, Germany (2013); and Mälmo Konsthall, Mälmo, Sweden (2012) among other places.
In Real Life, Liz Magic Laser, 2019, 5-channel HD video installation, 90 minutes; custom seating (dimensions variable). Commissioned by FACT, Liverpool, UK.
Featuring: Alabi Adebayo Akintunde (nollygfx on Upwork), Zahid Iqbal (thelancersinc on Fiverr), Cardy O’Donnell (PeoplePerHour), Nikki (PeoplePerHour), Kiki Wong (K1wngg on Fiverr), Count Marco (Fiverr and PsychicMix), Louise Papadopoullos (Mind Body Design).
Video Producer: David E. Guinan, Edited by: Laura Geisswiller, Trailer Editor / Assistant Editor: Jonathan Turton, Producer: Charlotte Horn, Written by: Liz Magic Laser, Cardy O’Donnell, Vanessa Thill, Whiteboard Animator: Alabi Adebayo Akintunde, Graphic Design: Zahid Iqbal, Voiceover Artist: Kiki Wong, Social Media Content Creator: Nikki, Researcher: Vanessa Thill, Research Assistant: Penelope Pardo, Motion Graphics: Patrick Bate, Frostmotion, Graphicsplayer, David Guinan, Yoshi Sodeoka, Jonathan Turton, 3D Animation: David Guinan, Sound Designer: Jared Arnold, Composer: Gobby, Sound Re-recording mixer: Chris Liang, Technical Advisor: Mark Murphy, Additional Music by: Chris Liang and Sonnymusic1 (on Fiverr), Additional Animations by: Yoshi Sodeoka, Additional filming by: Carl Davies, Atanas Paskalev and Maria Ruban, Special Thanks to Maneesh Sethi of Pavlok.
Commissioned by FACT as part of The Future World of Work, a project commissioned by Culture Liverpool as part of the Liverpool 2018 programme. Supported by the U.S. Embassy London. Supported using public funding by Arts Council England and Liverpool City Council. Courtesy of the artist, Various Small Fires (Los Angeles) and Wilfried Lentz (Rotterdam). Installation photographs by Rob Battersby.
Liz Magic Laser, Handle / Poignée, 2018, single-channel video, 14:21 minutes. Commissioned by Centre Pompidou, Paris, for MOVE 2018 Exhibition of Dance, Performance, Moving Image.
With dancers Lise Benoit, Carisa Bledsoe, Chen Yun-Chen, Célia Chauviere, Fabiana Gabanini and Martina Musilova. Developed through a process that included workshops with dance therapists, France Schott Billmann and Mandoline Whittlesey, and choreographic consulting by Cori Kresge. Director of Photography: Spencer Wolff. Motion Graphic Design: Common Space Studio. Costumes by Slow and Steady Wins the Race. Set and costumes produced with generous support from Fondation d’entreprise Galeries Lafayette, Paris.
Handle / Poignée is co-produced with the Centre Pompidou, Paris, Gulbenkian Foundation, Paris, and the Confort Moderne, Poitiers. Developed in partnership with ACTS and Micadanses. Project produced on the occasion of Talismans, Le desert entre nous n’est que du sable, Gulbenkian Foundation Paris, and circulating to the Confort Moderne, Poitiers in October 2018.