London Gallery West host the exhibition “The Politics of the Office”, a photographic research project conducted by Andreia Alves de Oliveira that offers a rare opportunity to witness images of offices in the City and Canary Wharf that are largely inaccessible to the general public.
Underpinned by a multidisciplinary study comprising the history of the modern office, management theory, organisational psychology, and architecture and office design, Andreia Alves de Oliveira’s extensive project The Politics of the Office presents the office as a defining space of industrialised and service-based society, encapsulating power in its varied contemporary forms.
The offices shown belong to nearly fifty financial, corporate, and legal institutions including law firms, insurance companies, hedge funds, investment banks, and advertising agencies; access to which was obtained during a period of two years that involved contacting hundreds of institutions.
The office is ubiquitous within industrialised societies. A space for work, the office is also a space of order, standardisation, rationalisation, and bureaucratic hierarchy. Recent management trends linking productivity to interaction between workers have lead to the creation of breakout and other informal, non-functionalist areas, often inspired by hotel interiors.
Similarly, with the aim of facilitating collaborative working, personally assigned desks have been replaced by non-territorial systems that position the worker as a guest who ‘checks-in’ to be given a desk (hotdesking), or ‘reserves’ a desk if such a facility is available (hoteling, or for a short period, moteling). This allows institutions to reduce costs by reducing the total number of desks to a fraction of the number of employees.
The office emerged in the nineteenth century alongside the development of photography. Yet despite the prevalence of the office in the visual realm – in films, television series, comics, pornography, and art – the documentation of actual offices has been generally limited to architectural photography and that commissioned by corporations or developers for commercial purposes – or has focused instead on the representation of office workers as in the work of Lee Friedlander or Anna Fox.
The Politics of the Office therefore constitutes an unprecedented visual investigation into the space of the office, using photography both to examine the power relations enacted through this space, and to intervene in the power structures involved in its representation. Eschewing the seductive geometry of the open-plan floor that accords so well with the rectilinear frame of the camera to create dramatic compositions, and by employing a low point of view, the offices are shown on a human scale and in their banality.
Andreia Alves de Oliveira is a photographer based in London. She concluded recently a practice-based PhD in photography at the University of Westminster. Her practice focuses on subjects related to contemporary work and living conditions, in particular through the investigation and analysis of lived space.
until January 18, 2015
Andreia Alves de Oliveira
The Politics of the Office
London Gallery West
309 Regent Street, London