“What Do Artists Do All Day” is a BBC Four documentary series prudently and pruriently devised to be reality TV’s answer to Giorgio Vasari’s “Vite”. Obliquely, it is a reinterpretation of Richard Scarry’s seminal critical enquiry (for ages 3 to 6) “What Do People Do All Day”, as it is also the pointedly pecuniary theme of the 2016 Manifesta art biennial: “What Do People Do for Money”.
Such titular ontologies evince anxieties of stuff, if not of substance: how to account for “idle time” in an “age of austerity”, how to construe the matter and duréе of artistic process against the foil of digital “instantaneity”, or how, indeed, to suffer gladly the travails of our travail—that “job of work” and “robota” of the robots, the very pleasure and pain of production—monotony. Yet just like the drone of heavy machinery or the constant clerical shuffle across computer cubicles, this Modernist critique by the “chattering” classes is itself a type of ceaseless existential fidget—an animated GIF forever aflutter.
From snapchat stenography and irritant ads to elegiac gallery installations, the loopy logic of this incidental digital format absurdly abides: in emot-iconic ubiquity, inchoate pre-cinematic nostalgia, and our lightly contused contemporary sublime. The GIF, as insuppressible still life, becomes our modern vanitas. Requisitioning “tools of trade” from practitioners and dispractics alike, this inquiry into regimented agitation offers some initial thoughts on all that is aberrant and buoyant, humdrum and forfeited in the arrhythmia of the ars electronica’s utopian promise.
Rositza Alexandrova is an artist and curator whose latest exhibition at Architekturforum Oberösterreich outlined a geodesic-sardonic imaginary— with works by Nedko Solakov and Gustav Peichl/Ironimus, among others. Preceding this, she taught a course on vanguards and jesters (from Lenin to LOLcats) at Humboldt Universität Berlin, while consiliently working to convince clothing retailer Zara to rebrand worldwide as Tzara — in a DADA centennial tribute. A graduate of Princeton University, Alexandrova has previously written on filmic trailers and cinematic stutter as well as on broader tropes of stacking, scaffolds and accoutrements in modern and contemporary comparative media. She holds a doctorate from the University of Cambridge and has been a visiting fellow at L'École des hautes études en sciences sociales, in Paris. She is currently IFK_Research Fellow.