Meaningless Work 2005
duration: 00:12:20
resolution: 4:3

Taking as a starting point Walter de Maria’s "Boxes for Meaningless Work" (1960), the performance plays with the audience’s imagination, subduing the performative aspect of the work to sound and the meaningless action.

Meaningless Work comes from a short essay written by Walter De Maria in March, 1960. For De Maria, meaningless work refers to any activity that "does not make money or accomplish a conventional purpose." He offers several examples: moving blocks from one box to another and then back, digging a hole, then covering it up-so long as nothing is accomplished, any task can be made meaningless. De Maria writes, "Meaningless work is potentially the most abstract, concrete, individual, foolish, indeterminate, exactly determined, varied, important art-action-experience one can undertake today. This concept is not a joke. Try some meaningless work in the privacy of your own home." In the case of this performance, a classroom containing a bright green chalkboard, three long high worktables, a number of stools, and a sink. The performance consists in a series of precise gestures, shoving and pivoting desks from one side of the room to the other, flipping stools onto and off tabletops, and dragging them across the floor. The performance ends with everything situated as it began; the efforts come to nothing. "Meaningless Work" is neither heroic nor vitally productive. Exhaustion here is both palpable and parodic.

Excerpt from essay: Elegant Obstinacy, Meaningless Work by Erica Levine & Daniel Marcus, CCA Wattis Institute.