David Chandler on.The Work Series

Because in one way or another it touches all of us, the ‘white collar’ workplace is one of the most powerfully symbolic environments of our uncertain and transitional turn of the century culture. In offices everywhere over the last ten years the promise of new technology as a tool of empowerment has been answered instead by new anxieties as patterns of work have changed to create more efficient, streamlined systems and to maximise the potential for higher productivity. In parallel to this, global communications have helped to create a new perception of time itself. The ‘instant’, as both an idea and as a measure of time, has taken on a special currency: instant information, instant access, and instant solutions permeate the workplace alongside notions of obsolescence and disposability. Now, it seems, there are no boundaries, but also no guarantees, to the working contract. As working life becomes more flexible so instability and impermanence at work have begun to shape the contours of new forms of human experience.

This is the uneasy space that David Moore probes darkly in this series of photographs; a space of physical and psychological suspension, where the vital signs of human life seem to be in danger of being erased. In formal terms the work follows Moore’s earlier series, The Velvet Arena, with its intense concentration of human figures compressed into a shallow foreground carved out by the photographer’s flashlight. And yet the differences are also significant. In the earlier work the body was more animated and gestural, the images tracking the taut physical communication between guests at private receptions and parties. In the new photographs the body is more isolated and stilled against the black void beyond the flash. In each a figure seems lost in concentration, their attention fixed on something outside of the frame, something hypnotic that from experience and the vacant expression, we might judge to be a computer screen. Both present and absent, emerging from and fading into the dark recesses of the unseen office, they are poised in an ambiguous state that feels, the longer we look, quietly sinister.