Photographer Matthew Brooks has been capturing various institutional and governmental offices and presenting them as meticulously neat and superficial-looking environments for his latest project Office Space. The images blur the real and the constructed together as these mundane spaces are arranged with existing objects and furniture already in the rooms like empty stages.
The series has the same level of uneasy tension as his previous project, Italian Homes, which we featured last year. Here Matthew seems intent on creating even more ambiguity: “I used these institutional spaces to create ‘sets’ which I then photographed with a large format camera,” says Matthew. “The colours are a mix of fiction and reality. Since I’m creating a narrative using these sterile spaces, some digital manipulation was involved to further fictionalise these environments.”
While the photographs have been staged, using found office objects like the water cooler, the wheelie chair and whiteboard, there’s a sense of familiarity. Yet the dated colour schemes interspersed with bright flashes of colour creates a vivid contrast momentarily throwing us off. Matthew started the project after becoming fascinated by the constructed ideal of the “office job” and how many of us are encouraged to get a good, sturdy job in an office when on the cusp of adulthood.
A mix of medical offices, governmental offices and administrative spaces in educational institutions feature in the series. “I was granted some access to the governmental spaces because of a family member who works for the government, but the other locations were found mostly by happenstance,” explains Matthew. The series is inspired by Mike Judge’s film, Office Space which the project takes its name from. “The Initech offices [in the film] are incredibly mundane and boring but they’re also very neat and every detail has been carefully thought out,” says Matthew. “Of course these were sets and not real, but they still looked like every other office I had ever been in.” Highly stylised and oddly seductive, Matthew’s obsessive and neurotic interventions “reveals the rigidity and frustrations of the institutions depicted.”