Absenteeism is a habitual pattern of absence from a duty or obligation. Traditionally, absenteeism has been viewed as an indicator of poor individual performance, as well as a breach of an implicit contract between employee and employer; it was seen as a management problem, and framed in economic or quasi-economic terms. More recent scholarship seeks to understand absenteeism as an indicator of psychological, medical, or social adjustment to work.
The psychological model that discusses Absenteeism is the “withdrawal model,” which assumes that absenteeism represents individual withdrawal from dissatisfying working conditions. This finds empirical support in a negative association between absence and job satisfaction, especially satisfaction with the work itself.
Sigurdarson’s installation is a indirect continuation of a series called “Diagnosis of the Obvious,” in which he converted emotionally significant landscapes of Iceland into grid-like renderings. He digitally drew images of frozen cityscapes of his native Reykjavik. In doing so, he stripped them of all relevance and essentially coded them into an indecipherable series of coordinates. The works from this series took on a dual purposes; they exist in two realms – the cyber world as figures and codes, and in the physical world as products of art (landscape drawings). Yet, neither captures the emotional melancholy of the original images from which the series evolved, instead, the works are stark representations of otherwise deeply personal photographs. Absenteeism is a direct continuum of this series, whereas now the grid becomes real and the “art” dissolves into a conceptual idea.
For the past several years Sigurdarson has felt a severe disconnect with his work; whether this is an absence of inspiration or merely a transformative phase. In this project, he’s addressing his own “absenteeism” from his practice. In essence, he is interpreting his artistic frustrations through the “withdrawal model” and conceptually coding his work in attempts to discover the root of his “job dissatisfaction.”
His installation is an insightful synthesis of the mechanics of the art world, which ultimately functions like any other workplace environment. As an artist you take on the role of an “employee”, working under the legislation of an art gallery as the “employer.” Often times giving in to the demands of the gallery directors or curators and producing work that may no longer feel true to one’s vision.
Sigurdarson is approaching the exhibition space as a blank corporate entity; furthermore, he is framing the space, covering every inch of it with structures that are regarded as support for the very basis of art expression. He has collected the frames over a long period of time and they have been in his studio waiting to be given a purpose. Some are reclaimed, found or made by hand, but they will all be altered to fit the exact dimensions of the room, which they will cover from wall to wall.
He is allowing his practice to be determined by the demands of the space and shifting his attention to the structures that support “the work.” By doing so, he’s making a choice to explore the disconnect between his work and the self that exists independent of the work. This process has brought him to the realization that the absence of his work is the work, thus embracing the idea of absenteeism as a new state of working.