You cannot visit artist Maria Eichhorn’s new exhibit at London’s Chisenhale Gallery. In her newest piece “5 weeks, 25 days, 175 hours,” the Berlin-based artist has paid the gallery’s staff not to work. For the duration of the exhibit, the doors are locked, the staff is gone, and emails to the office are automatically deleted.
Eichhorn conceived the piece after interviewing gallery staff last year. According to the exhibit notes, it’s an experiment in “suspending the capitalist logic of exchange” and “making a life without wage labor imaginable.”
Staff are still getting full pay, but Eichhorn’s terms dictate that the gallery can’t be rented out or otherwise used for profit in the five weeks.
Eichhorn has explored the economic forces behind the public consumption of art before. In her 2001 project “Money at the Kunsthalle Bern,” Eichhorn used her exhibition budget to pay for repairs at a gallery in Bern, Switzerland, and printed the cost and contractors used on the invitation cards and posters.
Her new project also examines cold practicalities of the art business. Gallery staffers told Eichhorn that up to 75% of their time is spent fundraising, work that can’t get done during this period of forced time off. While paid leave sounds like an enticing deal, “5 weeks, 25 days, 175 hours” is an experiment in what is gained and lost when we disconnect from work.