Video Parodies Office Conventions and the Routines of the Workday in a Fictitious Office Building

Building Things, still, newspaper blowing onto face masthead

(NEW YORK, NY — December 20, 2021) — Times Square Arts, the largest public platform for contemporary performance and visual arts, is pleased to present Building Things (2021) by British artists John Wood and Paul Harrison, collectively known as Wood & Harrison for the organization’s January Midnight Moment,  the world’s largest, longest-running digital art exhibition, synchronized on over 80 electronic billboards throughout Times Square nightly from 11:57pm to midnight. Building Things is co-presented with Cristin Tierney Gallery, making the work the gallery’s second Midnight Moment collaboration with Times Square Arts, the first being Head of a Sad Young Woman by Peter Campus in March 2019. The artist duo are known for creating single channel videos, multi-screen video installations, prints, paintings, sculptures and drawings that elegantly fuse conceptual exploration with existential comedy.

Building Things (2021) traces a camera’s descent down the side of a fictitious office building, offering glimpses into room after room where various scenes unfold, alternating between the mundane and the absurd. Each floor has the standard vernacular of an office space: a desk, clock, filing cabinet, fluorescent lighting — yet an unnamed worker takes part in increasingly non-administrative activities along the descent. These tragi-comic vignettes poke fun at the conventions of the office space, the routines of the workday, and become a choreography of heightened occurrences, a distillation of the everyday, and a parody of office culture.

The artists, who have never worked in a traditional office space before, mirrored the same intrigue non-artists have about working in a studio space, and applied that wonder to their interpretation of the office.

“We don’t have a proper job, we are told quite often, we don’t go to the office and do important things, we’ve never sent a fax to Chicago. So maybe that’s why the idea of an office, for us, is special, a bit of a mystery. Maybe that’s why we built an office in our studio. Maybe that's why one of the art we tried to make is ‘Building Things’,” said Wood & Harrison.

The themes of convention and routine explored in Harrison & Wood’s piece strike a topical chord in an age of conversation surrounding workers returning to the office after months away, exploring the ways in which humans interact with their surrounding environment while asking viewers to question a society structured around the workday.

John Wood (b.1969, Hong Kong) and Paul Harrison (b.1966, Wolverhampton) make single-channel videos, multi-screen video installations, prints, drawings, and sculptures. The artists’ spare, to-the-point works feature the actions of their own bodies, a wide variety of static and moving props, or combinations of both to illustrate the triumphs and tribulations of making art and having a life. In their not-always-successful experiments with movement and materials, many of which critic Tom Lubbock has described as “sculptural pratfalls,” Wood and Harrison employ exuberant invention, subtle slapstick, and a touch of light-hearted melancholy to reveal the inspiration and perspiration—as well as the occasional hint of desperation—behind all creative acts.

Wood and Harrison met in 1989 at the Bath College of Higher Education and have worked together since 1993. Their work has been exhibited at Tate Britain, MoMA PS1, Mori Art Museum, Frist Art Museum, University of California Santa Barbara, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, Palais de Tokyo and Contemporary Art Gallery (Vancouver). Their work is in the collections of the Kadist Foundation, MoMA, British Council Collection, MUDAM, Tate, Centre Pompidou and more. The artists have a studio in Bristol.

Founded in 2010, Cristin Tierney Gallery is a contemporary art gallery located on The Bowery with a deep commitment to the presentation, development and support of a roster of both established and emerging artists. Its program emphasizes artists engaged with critical theory and art history, with an emphasis on conceptual, video, and performance art. Education and audience engagement is central to our mission.

Times Square Arts, the public art program of the Times Square Alliance, collaborates with contemporary artists and cultural institutions to experiment and engage with one of the world's most iconic urban places. Through the Square's electronic billboards, public plazas, vacant areas and popular venues, and the Alliance's own online landscape, Times Square Arts invites leading contemporary creators, such as Mel Chin, Tracey Emin, Jeffrey Gibson, Ryan McGinley, Yoko Ono, and Kehinde Wiley, to help the public see Times Square in new ways. Times Square has always been a place of risk, innovation and creativity, and the Arts Program ensures these qualities remain central to the district's unique identity.


Ali Rigo
Senior Account Executive, Cultural Counsel

Lauren Gagnon
Account Coordinator, Cultural Counsel