This piece may be a bit too accessible.
"Office Light," Curt Gambetta's new installation at the Lawndale Arts Center, beckons moths to the flame -- 12 fluorescent troffer lights arranged in a 2'x4' office ceiling grid that stands six feet tall. That height purposefully makes it a little too close for comfort for some for sure, urging viewers to take a few steps back to take it in. Stripped of any cubicles or swivel chairs, and even without the aid of the name, the piece's references are clear. Gambetta says his work registers "as a ghost of what is neglected or erased, or a portent of future urban conditions." It's a never-ending cycle.
This authentic nod to the ubiquitous, often monotonous office experience got us thinking about other, more opinionated takes on soul-crushing office culture. With "Office Light" burning until January 7, you should have enough time to check out -- or revisit -- them all.
Yeah, it's obvious, but no pop culture roundup on works that are inspired by mundane office culture would be complete without Mike Judge's 1999 satirical comedy. The story about three disgruntled workers and their rebellion against their greedy boss encapsulates the trivialities of corporate, fluorescent-cast culture like none other.
Sure, it's more absurd and heightened than any office you'll ever work in, but the American version of this mockumentary-style sitcom still captures that 9-5, clocking in, paper-pushing, coffee break grind. And every office has a Meredith, Kelly, Angela, Jim, Stanley and, if you're lucky, Creed.
Who knew cartoons could be so relatable! Scott Adams's titular glasses-wearing, tie-sporting engineer has turned its satirical office humor into a more than 20-year-old comic strip, animated TV series, computer game and, of course, merchandise that's ready for a cubicle near you. Apparently, the commentary on office politics has struck such a chord, Adam himself has said that once he switched the comic's setting from Dilbert's home to his office, the strip took off.
And Then We Came to the End
It's the late 1990s, at a Chicago advertising agency. Layoffs are constant, and workers are throwing themselves into an impossible assignment -- make breast cancer funny to its survivors. Joshua Ferris's told-through-the-watercooler satire of the American workplace perfectly captures the mundane yet oh-so-important details of life under the fluorescent lights, like the allure of free bagels.
The title says it all. This 1997 dark, smart comedy follows four misfits -- temps, of course -- whose anonymity in their offices fuels their cliquey friendship. All the travails of modern office work -- the boredom, the piles of pointless work, the highly anticipated happy hours and, of course, the fluorescent-lit cubicles -- are all there.
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