Under Working Conditions

Andrew Cooke &

In his video Performance Under Working Conditions, Andrew Cooke presents himself as a human vacuum cleaner. He crawls across a carpet on his hands and knees, never lifting his forehead from the floor. With his voice, he imitates the sound of a vacuum cleaner. Both the décor of the room and the artist’s clothing hint at poverty-stricken circumstances. At first, the scene might seem humorous. Yet the comic aspect is ruined by the perspective. The camera, which lies motionless on the ground, brings viewers down to eye level with the protagonist, so that they experience events from his point of view. Keeping in mind the fact that Cooke lives in this hotel room, where he works as a custodian, the social critique behind the performance becomes obvious.

The video can be interpreted on two levels: for one, Cooke addresses the deplorable social circumstances to which service workers are exposed on a daily basis. These include poor working conditions and a lack of respect, not only on the part of employers, but also of society in general. The artist expresses this in his worshipful physical pose, which also makes clear that this type of subjugation leads to the development of a loss of dignity, status, and self-respect. For another, the artist’s performance formulates a subtle way in which to revolt against this misery. In this sense, the physical pose can also be read as defiance. According to the artist, this intangible, quiet resistance holds more promise of success than would an open protest. (Marion Klein-Hitpass)

About the video

Title Under Working Conditions
Year 2006
Videonale VIDEONALE.12
Length 00:02:25
Format 4:3
Country United Kingdom,
Language No dialog
Courtesy the artist
Specifications colour, sound, single-channel video

About the artist

Andrew Cooke
  • 1972 in Crewe, GBR.
    Studied at the Sheffield Hallam University, GBR