THE OFFICE Project, 2013

THE OFFICE project

Orkhan Huseynov’s “The Office” project is devoted to a visual analysis of a situation that reveals the contradiction between a significant aspect of the office in our nation and the liberal spirit of the world economy.

A very curious effect of globalization, a process that began in the last century, is the westernization of countries and cultures that, historically, are part of Islamic civilization. In the case of Azerbaijan the situation is a little different: the country was for many years part of first the Russian empire and then its Soviet successor and ties with Islamic values were forbidden. Thus as soon as the USSR fell Azerbaijan was left at the intersection of two contradictory trends – westernization coming from the West and a soft, “politically correct”, form of Islamization, the impulse to return to religious traditions re-emerging from the depths of the nation’s collective unconscious. The juxtaposition of these two vectors creates the special aura suffusing the country’s economic life. Thanks to oil and gas the country is being criss-crossed by a network of local firms and transnational corporations.

The nerve centre of this network is OFFICE – a universal working space crammed full of office equipment: computers, printers, copy machines, faxes, many and various cables, as well as the specific smell of an office interior. Offices are channels for the passage of streams of information that are converted into currency symbols. But offices have a cold metaphysics, purely western in origin. The multifunctional organization of the office, as well as the management administering the tough space of economic reality, are products of western liberal thinking that have made the economy the main sphere of life. I.e. the global economy is not insulated from ideology. It is a derivative of liberal ideology. However, religious people, Muslims and adherents to completely different ideologies are often to be found working in these offices in Azerbaijan. Then there are the peculiarities of the national character…

These people bring religious attributes into the faceless offices –desktop wallpapers, answering machine music, prayer mats etc. An eastern Islamic mentality is appended artificially to the spiritually alien western technology. Islam is strictly authoritative and vertical. Unlike other confessions it penetrates all spheres of life and leaves no space a stranger to spiritual forms. The western aura of the office is liberal, feminist and horizontal; incompatible with manifestations of a masculine spiritual hierarchy. Can we speak of the sincerity or authenticity of belief in those Muslims who work in offices? Or it is only a tribute to religious faith? Traumatic; a paradox difficult to resolve. We can only say with confidence that the strict, vertical hierarchy intrudes into the flexible-liberal office space. Socio-cultural eclectics… The mutation of a collective psychological field into an obscure spiritual structure – the formation of a new mentality within Azerbaijani people, refracted rays of office energy. The cosmopolitan atmosphere of offices despises and depersonalizes the office ‘hero-machos’, who really like being presidents and directors, not in the same mould as ‘advanced’ western topmanagement, but in an eastern-despotic model of local office micro-tsars. An atmosphere of uncertainty and anxiously fidgety worry reigns everywhere… 

In order to realize the “office” plan, Huseynov elected for an ascetic but technologically perfect strategy – laconic, figurative, black and white images in Plexiglas, first prepared in computer software and ready-made installation objects. A conceptual method approaching the strategies of artists Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Kosuth deploys this theme in the best possible fashion: black is the colour of oil, a magical word in many eastern regions; white is the colour of the office; it kills and equalizes all before strong, clean economy, as if before God. The industrial completeness of the works has something in common with the technologically perfect European office interior. As a whole, simply because of the ready-mades and technologies involved in the construction of the works, the exposition generously yields up cold. But this cold is the distant gaze of the artist-analyst, which is emotionally drawn into the situational art that he has created and which registers the observed vacantly, with cold vision. The gaze of a surgeon who is about to make a diagnosis. text: Teymur Daimi (art critic, PH.D)