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Corporate Costumes: Reclaim the Mundane's Office Party

In this Theatre X Art collaboration, writers Georgia Gibson and Ariunzaya Batkhuyag share two perspectives, of performativity and art respectively, on Reclaim the Mundane's recent exhibition. Georgia's article is below.

'Office Surveyor' film on exhibition. Photo by Georgia Gibson.

As soon as I exited Bank station, I realised Reclaim the Mundane’s Office Party exhibition had already begun. Flocks of corporate clad Bankers stampeded the white stone streets, each disgruntledly rushing to a late meeting or wearing the quirky smile of heading for a post-work pint. I would not think so little of Reclaim the Mundane’s curators to suppose this location was any type of coincidence for an event where the dress code was ‘office-wear drag’. In fact, on my walk to the venue I weeded out a fellow attendee from the crowds; they were distinguishable not by personal recognition but by the colourful tie and otherwise thrifted, baggy outfit that stuck out amid the suit-clad crop.

The location set up for the show I was in for: a dissection of the performance that is our corporate mundane. Daily objects were ironically displayed as if in isolation from the world outside, acting as tongue in cheek props of a cultural play that is our reality. A selection of ties was exhibited, humorously colourful and patterned like those a co-worker might wear at an office party to “show their personality”. Attendees were encouraged to take them off the wall and wear them around the exhibition, so long as they were returned to the correctly numbered space by the end of the event. Perhaps not so much choice or individuality was involved at all then, which of course solidifies the exhibition's point. We can play dress-up with our lives in a capitalist system, but we can never step out of it entirely.

'I AM DOING OKAY' and 'THE FALSE SELF WILL SET U FWEE' by Laura Bowels. Photo by Georgia Gibson.

Another piece, titled Best of Both Worlds by Sav Goldman, presented a pink coat rack with a canvas reading “MAYBEIWANTTOBEHANNAHMONTANA”, whilst hiding a high-visibility construction jacket on the other peg. Again jolting, it posed the potential to question gendered social conditioning as well as the economic and neoliberal pretences that hard work or ambition equals opportunity or achievement. What is a better pop-culture example of how identity is merely a social performance than Hannah Montana?

The interactive performance piece of the night saw Reclaim the Mundane’s performers sit in a bathtub filled with ball-pit balls, whilst attendees who wished to be ‘baptised’ lined up to have bottled Buxton poured over their head. Meanwhile, Reclaim the Mundane’s finest fancy-dress priest read out their scripture, a proclamation that combined questions of faith with cries to God that they did not get an Apple watch for Christmas. It was a chaotic and fun attack on the warped hypocrisies of capitalist and institutional mundanity, highlighting the absurdity of contemporary morality in an age of ‘big business’ omnipresence.

Esme Godkin and Sav Goldman in the 'Ball-pit Baptisms' performance piece. Photo by Georgia Gibson.

As my collaborator Ariunzaya observed, much of the art we saw seemed to lack much depth. Perhaps there is a case to be made for this as a weakness, but we concluded that it instead worked more effectively to poke fun at the grandiosity and elitism of contemporary art. It was a spotlight on the depthlessness of postmodernity and a mockery of productivity culture (see Esme Godkin and Sav Goldman’s satirical street-interview film, Office Surveyor). Just like the capitalist costumes of those I saw en route to the exhibition, the art itself was in many ways a parody museum of both social performativity and of contemporary art. It was humorously pointless, and cleverly so.

Reclaim the Mundane's work can be found at @ReclaimtheMundane on instagram.

Edited by Georgia Gibson.


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