Jessica Vaughn’s Cathartic Critiques of Office Culture
By Olivia Jia
May 2, 2021
In Vaughn’s hands, “success” is not only a euphemism for profit, but also a parade of etiquette, competition, and power.
As an office-worker, I can’t remember the last time artwork felt so viscerally relevant to daily life. Jessica Vaughn’s latest exhibition, Our Primary Focus Is To Be Successful, reconfigures materials from the corporate environment to reveal how capitalism colors all aspects of workers’ lives — most importantly, how we see and value each other, and how we respect ourselves.
Vaughn’s video installation of the same name prescribes the emotional tenor for the entire exhibition. In “Our Primary Focus Is To Be Successful” (2019), dueling rhythms of generic elevator music, text, and cycling videoclips of office spaces make for stressful viewing. My eyes dart to and fro, unable to keep up with the pace. Vaughn brilliantly conjures the disorientation of new employees, the process of acclimatizing to an unfamiliar workplace while deciphering the barrage of management’s coded language and the veiled warnings of peers. Success here is not only a euphemism for profit, but also a parade of etiquette, competition, and power.
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