Art Ergonomics

Dorothy Howard

I’m searching; I’m looking around. Did something happen to me? I haven’t found what I’m looking for. The artwork asks; does this comfort help to distract you from an otherwise uncomfortable situation? The mundane exhibition bench and “eye level” hangings–although whose eye level this is judged by is unclear–impose architectures of social control seeking to eliminate distraction and isolate our considerations only to the processes of art production that the artist hopes to invoke, not the others.

The idea of ‘rest,’ and ‘wellness,’ found sometimes in the recreational activity of viewing art, is associated with increasing productivity elsewhere. This is the case even when the artwork might be said to depict violence against its spectator. Outside of the often youthful set of gallery-goers and hanger-outers, the purchasing audience is a different one, when artworks are often transferred into storage archives, offices, and corporate lobbies.

The domestic interior is reflective of changing labor practices through our chair/ desk paradigms, and computer use practices. Are comfort architectures, fitness wear, etc., a sign of increasing physical and cognitive burdens of living under late capitalism, tools to help us cope with the encroachment of workplace stressors on the human spirit?

What trajectories of community health are possible by designing environments for art viewing that might prevent carpal tunnel, arthritis, extension, through product and fashion engineering, or deep tissue massage?


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