Voloshyn Gallery, Kyiv
What Am I Doing Here?
What Am I Doing Here? is a new urban micro-series that further develops the ideas of Sai’s large-scale praxis project Excel-Art. Sai has been working with Excel software as a visual language resource since 2004. The first exhibition entitled Excel-Art was held at the Tsekh Gallery in Kyiv in 2007. The artist sees the abstract language of numbers, graphs and diagrams as the only possible mode of addressing the life of clerks and office workers, that is, the strata presently associated with average employment. Artists tend to ignore office drudgery as inconsequential and banal. Insofar as artists engage with it at all, they tend to do so indirectly, through satire and other gestures or strategies not devoid of critical intent. Counter to this approach, Sai offers a markedly neutral and objective representation of the life of office workers in all its facets.
Over the last couple of years, Sai has been rethinking the role of the “office” lifestyle as a social norm, depicting office workers as a semi-extinct species that will soon depart from the historical arena. “What am I doing here?” is a question a bewildered person asks him- or herself, suddenly grasping his or her incongruity to the present circumstances. Many types of social interactions, including changes in models of corporate culture, which encompass relations between workers and their colleagues or employers, are being redefined, and the results of the process are hard to predict. Therefore, it is all the more important to seize the moment and document the life of this disappearing species before it turns into an archeological specimen.
The artist’s choice to embrace the software developed to process large corpuses of data is also an attempt to demystify art practice as such. Excel is standard software that comes with the Microsoft Office package, so even the least experienced computer users will have solid understanding of how these works were created. The aesthetic properties inevitably accumulated by the prints Sai constructs in Excel appear as an excessive byproduct rather than as a creation of an artist privy to the arcane knowledge of the nature of art. At the same time, painstaking monotonous tweaking integral to working with Excel and producing Excel-art is perfectly in keeping with the rhythm of office work: office workers are faced with the necessity to meticulously process large volumes of data. Only one detail supports the aura of an artwork around Sai’s prints: despite the fact that these images are obviously easily reproduced, they programmatically exist in one copy only.
Oleksiy Sai was born in 1975 in Kyiv, where he lives and works to this day. He graduated from the Kyiv College of Arts and Industries with a degree in graphic design in 1993, and from the Department of Easel Graphic Art at the National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture in 2001. PinchukArtCentre Prize nominee ’09, he is widely exhibited. Oleksiy Sai took part in many group and solo exhibitions in Ukraine and abroad. His works were exhibited at Black Square Gallery (Miami, the USA), Saatchi Gallery (London, the UK), Bunsen Goertz Gallery (Nurembreg, Germany), PERMM Museum of Contemporary Art (Perm, Russia), etc.