Dark disruption: David Mutiloa’s Synthesis
Cover Story, September 2017
Human worker-performers move sluggishly around a modular platform in a permanently gloomy La Capella; they are employed to apparently do nothing much at all, embodying an uncanny kind of work–life balance. It’s the gig economy, stupid. David Mutiloa’s melancholy Barcelona exhibition Synthesis shadows how changes in the modern office workplace have heeded novel notions of management and business efficiency, abiding by a labour market that progressively favours flexibility and adaptability. Sculptures cast and compiled from steel, silicon, resin, computer components, and pharmaceutical drugs, loom out of the half-light, evoking hunks of human anatomy as well as iconic industrial design forms. There are limbs and serial elements that recall an office chair once nicknamed the ‘Dot-Com Throne’; torsos and parts of modular workstations, or desk accessories that were once designed with both high style and ergonomics in mind.
A relentless sound collage fills the exhibition space: the anxious hum of a post-industrial factory floor, or the placeless drone of the knowledge economy, perhaps. A new element joins the exhibition from September 5th, a video projection from the point of view of a camera gliding around the mise en scène, as if recursively retransmitting the installation, or monitoring the workers. As the twenty-first-century Western labourer increasingly becomes an independent contractor navigating an entirely dissolved working-week structure, facing a buffet of self-help and self-promotion, challenged to ‘disrupt’ or be disrupted, Synthesis diagnoses a brittle psyche of reluctant performance. Until September 25th.