Neoteny Institute for the End of Work

Stéphane Degoutin et Gwenola Wagon

Call center, vidéos et plantes

2017

The video installation Neoteny Institute for the End of Work projects us into a near or distant future, in which vegetation has spontaneously invaded the vestiges of the tertiary society. Each workstation computer screen displays images of what office life was like at the beginning of the 21st century.

Neoteny Institute for the End of Work. 3D simulation.
Vue de l'installation. Biennale de Design.
Vue de l'installation. Biennale de Design.
Vue de l'installation. Biennale de Design.
Vue de l'installation. Biennale de Design.

The offices of an abandoned call center are devoured by a jungle of tropical plants. At each workstation, a computer screen, still on, is showing a loop of videos promoting the Neoteny Institute : amateur films retrieved from the Internet, showing the most blatant symptoms of the degradation of work at the beginning of the 21st century, or films promoting leisure activities that help to lengthen man's infancy.

Excerpt from the video *Stock Faces*
Vue de l'installation. Cairotronica - A Future of possibilities.
Image extraite de la vidéo *Gesture*

Neoteny is a characteristic of certain species, such as humans, domestic animals or the axolotl, which retain juvenile characteristics much later than the other animals. Born prematurely into the world, they continue to play and learn for much of their lives. The neotenic man is a great preemie.

We will see overworked employees, confined to absurd tasks, playing childish games. In order not to go crazy behind their machines, they go back to childhood. Others, to make up for the emptiness and to avoid a burn-out, follow picturesque psychological support sessions, take part in seminars or survival courses. If they are fired from their stupid jobs, they let their emotions explode, put their nerves on their work tool and destroy their machines, in a distant reminder of the Luddites. Apart from these fleeting joys, everyday life consists of sudoku victories in secret from their boss, organizing office chair races in the corridors, hurdle jumping in call centres, improvized strip-teases, pallet fights, cinder block sculptures on building sites, abandonment to the arms of robots... The office is transformed into the ultimate amusement park, for the last humans who still have a job.

The installation presents the following videos :

  • Orthogonal : Accelerated films of the construction of call centers and standardized cubicles, wall elevation, false ceilings, removable and transformable partitions, increasingly automated assembly systems.

  • Gestures : Standardization of the office worker's gestures behind his computer : typing on a keyboard, talking on the phone, clicking on a mouse, getting up, sitting down, drinking coffee, consulting websites, filling out forms on spreadsheets.

  • Hypnosis : Physiological and psychological preparation of office workers : posture learning sessions, to stand behind the desk, coaching classes, to learn how to relax in the worst moments of stress, fitness and stretching classes with water bottles, ergonomics 101 of tools and people.

  • Stock Faces : Succession of smiles from call center employees taken from image banks and advertisements for communication companies.

  • Paperboard Guru : How to survive in spite of an intensive production rhythm ? Managers in front of their PowerPoint presentations and whiteboard explain, with the help of diagrams, the rules of self-confidence, efficiency and success in business. They help to solve all types of problems, even the most complex ones. Indian gurus are invited to teach meditation to crowds of managers in lectures on contemporary marketing.

  • Crystal Clear : Fun activities designed to instill team spirit and cooperation: Warm Up, Energizers, Team building, Ice Breaking exercises, Scrum and Agile methods, development games to improve flexibility and group efficiency.

  • Cubicle Embellishment Tips : Selection of the best videos to decorate one's office environments in open space and partitioned offices : personalized posters of exotic islands, wallpapers of the cutest kittens next to a contest of the best depolluting plants, and a bunch of inventions presenting a folklore of the world of work.

  • Burn Out : Angry outbursts, employees on the verge of burn-out who learn they're fired, destruction of tools and the work environment : computer, copy machine, cubicle, lighting fixtures.

  • Trash Office : The ruins of a certain world of tertiary work : entire towers of abandoned offices, unoccupied call centers, overgrown, ruined, burned, ransacked, testifying to the crisis of a certain world of work.

Diffusion

Testing Grounds exhibition, Colomboscope, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 2016

10th Biennale Internationale Design Saint-Étienne, Cité du Design, Saint-Etienne, march 9 - april 9, 2017

Cairotronica - A Future of possibilities, Palace of Arts-Cairo Opera House, Cairo, Egypt, may 5 - 13, 2018.

Forêt Thérapie exhibition, La Traverse, Alfortville, may 3 - june 23, 2018

Annexes

Working Promesse. Article dans le catalogue de la 10eme Biennale Internationale Design Saint-Étienne. Cité du Design. Saint-Etienne.

Credits

With “Nouvelles serres de la ville de Saint-Etienne”.

Production Biennale Internationale Design de Saint Etienne. Cité du Design.

Programmation: metalu.net, Etienne Landon

Simulation 3D Geoffroy Wagon

Pictures: Fl. Kelinefenn / Biennale de Design (Ville de St-Etienne)

Video: David Boureau