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It’s off to work we go

Lise Smith

Bearing in mind perhaps William Morris’s notion that “nothing useless can be truly beautiful”, with E.I.O Maria Baroncea, Eduard Gabia and Dragana Bulut have set out to create something practical and with purpose. Half of the audience become participants in the piece by “working” for an hour using objects on the stage; the workers here control not only the means but the mode of production.

On the stage are rolls of fabric, plastic, string and wire, planks of wood, ladders, tables covered with tools and materials. The workers shuffle in, looking a bit bewildered, and each picks up an object to start “work” with. Participants chalk circles on the floor, build structures out of planks and chairs, wind and unwind string, measure out the surfaces. The watching audience have been asked to choose “the best worker” to pay after the event, so the process of labour demands our attention.

Sometimes the actions of one worker defeat the efforts of another. A tall bespectacled gentleman carefully erases from the floor the chalk circles carefully placed there by a woman ten minutes earlier. One worker builds a rather attractive model animal out of bendy rollers; another deconstructs the model and places the rollers rather more prosaically in her hair. Several workers hang out a string of inflated balloons on a line of string; later somebody else pops them one by one.

As the piece progresses, sculptures form all over the space – a pyramid of planks downstage left, a tent upstage and a towering monument built of chairs and ladders at the back. Every available surface is wrapped in string and plastic. The working environment is transformed by some silently agreed process of collectivebricolage.

Towards the end, it’s apparent that many workers have run out of ideas and some look obviously bored. The pace of work slows and those still active tend to add aimlessly to what already exists –another flower or feather atop structures that were built earlier. The workers lack purpose and the work lacks a defined use – and I think maybe Morris was right about uselessness.

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