The stage lights hit the curved back of the carpenter kneeling on stage, his image doubled in the twin shadows that fall either side of the spirit leveler he holds up to the white drywall.
This is Rirkrit Tiravanija’s Ne Travaillez Jamais, an ongoing performance piece-cum-stage set taking over the marathon. Every now and again, the carpenter re-emerges to continue laboring over an invisible task. Measuring, reading, recording in a tranquil, monkish fixation, indifferent to the speaker(s) to his right. Do Not Ever Work.
A row of house plants sits either side of the stage, calmly sucking in the CO2 produced by all the spoken and audio entropy, the buzzing machines amplifying voices, the clicking of cameras, the burning spotlights. We are talking about feeding machines—the economy, the imagination, and the biological process (and architectures) of sleep.
ACT ONE: THE MYTH OF SCARCITY
The carpenter disappears. Has he been fired, barely an hour into the gig? Is the Serpentine adopting a measure of austerity this year? Mark Boyle and James Suzman take the stage.
“We are living in an age of hyperabundance, but all our economic measurements are based on scarcity.”
Interlude: ON MIRACLES
Miracle is rooted in the Latin adjective mirus, meaning wonderful. It had a brief stint as a verb, mirari, before settling down in Old French to become a noun. A generative resource, something to be marvelled at, a happening inexplicable by natural and scientific laws, magic, a saint or religious leader. And increasingly common today, a miracle is a stroke of luck in surviving a natural disaster.
ACT TWO: HORIZONTAL PRODUCTION (KEEPING SCORE)
How many beds have you slept in?
How many people have slept in your bed? Are you sure?
What about that time when you lent your keys to a friend when you went out of town? Was it really just them? Are they really your friend? Or when you airbnb’d your studio in college for extra cash? What about a couple years later in Brooklyn, when your roommate suggested you airbnb your apartment and crash on her boyfriend's couch for the night? When you went along with it because the profit was too intoxicating to think to hard? How many guests, how many beds? Can beds become another anonymous commodity? Who profits?
“The bed inserted in the office, and the office inserted in the bed, has created a new horizontal architecture,”—Beatriz Colomina
Rest. Recharge. Relax. Your mattress knows you. Your nap will help increase your productivity. The science of sleep is now filtered into laws of production.
Down time is merely a preparation, a hibernation of labor stored up in anticipation of the working day to come. Or the working night.
“Recharging rooms will be as common as board rooms”
In an era of the (evaporated, nomadic, invisible, interstitial) workplace, these b̶o̶a̶r̶d̶ ̶r̶o̶o̶m̶s̶ recharging rooms were easily integrated into other points of slippage like train terminals and airports, themselves increasingly subject to chaos—environmental and economic pressures, freak storms and cancelled flights, budget airline and privatised rail service ambivalence, caught in the mysticism of apologies and unforseen travel delays.
In April 2016, JetBlue unveiled four state-of-the-art sleeping pods in Terminal 5 of New York’s JFK Airport. The JetNap EnergyPod (retailing £9,787.78) is equipped with a combination of lights, music and vibrations. Intended for short naps, the pod is designed to softly wake the user after 20 minutes.
Earlier this year, Nap York (https://napyork.com/) brought the nap pod into the city as a slick startup targeted at overworked millennials. Next to Penn Station, Nap York’s customers are welcomed into a soundproof lounge or sleep pods. For famished guests, meals can be purchased silently and seamlessly without human communication from a tablet, delivered via conveyer belt. Yoga and guided meditation classes are on offer, to ensure maximum productivity is harvested from your strategic rest.
Rather than becoming integrated into the workspace, nap rooms have become their own business typology. We are living in a moment of extreme acceleration where basic human processes like sleeping and eating are denied from the worker, isolated and fetishized, rebranded as luxury and strategy and fueled by their own commodity of desire.