Alex Prager creates 15 hyperreal, cringeworthy human sculptures to memorialise the office Christmas party
The uncannily recognisable characters appear in the Miller Lite Christmas ad and in an installation at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), to mark this year’s festive do’s that never were.
- 23 November 2020
- Jenny Brewer
American artist Alex Prager has paid tribute to the tropes of the office Christmas parties of yesteryear with an uncanny and comedic installation of hyperreal human sculptures. Farewell, Work Holiday Parties features 15 life-sized sculptures, each an iconic staple of the Christmas do – from the ubiquitous guy photocopying his bum to the awkward group photo – made in collaboration with Hollywood effects company Vincent Van Dyke to make them ultra realistic. They feature in the Miller Lite Christmas advert by agency DDB North America and an installation currently open at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), with the message that, maybe, some traditions are better left behind this year.
Prager is known for her dramatic, staged photographs using models shot in rich, saturated colour. This time, the artist still worked with models but instead scanned and 3D printed their body parts, directing them one at a time over Zoom. She then worked with Vincent Van Dyke Effects, as well as costume designer Jennifer Johnson and production designer K.K. Barrett, to create the so-called “life sculptures,” using some of the printed body parts, with added clay features plus hair, makeup, glass eyes and real human hair, to add to the creepily real final aesthetic. The results brilliantly satirise recognisable and cringeworthy cliches, from the woman cry-texting, mascara running down her cheeks, and the awful DJ from HR to the half-hearted festive apparel and generally lacklustre air. Look closer and every minute detail is accounted for, including break-up texts on the crying girl’s phone and lipstick smeared on the CEO’s teeth.
“It's one of those dream collaborations that comes along once every five years or so,” Prager says in a statement. “It touches on many things I've been exploring in my artistic practice – the line between reality and artifice and how we find ways to connect as humans through both raw emotion and performance, or projected realities. This year has been a disaster in terms of connecting with people we share common realities with, so I was very excited to work on a project that is ultimately about love and the human condition seen through an elegant and humorous lens.”
Prager also told the LA Times: “There’s a lot of raw emotion that I put into this. I really wanted people to be able to find what they love about humans in these cringy moments. We’ve all shared these moments to one degree or another, moments of connection. And universal connection is found in the details.”
In the Miller lite advert, the models seem caught in a freeze-frame of the party in full swing. At LACMA, they are situated in the Smidt Welcome Plaza where visitors can walk around them. Farewell, Work Holiday Parties was co-curated by LACMA’s Rita Gonzalez and Liz Andrews.
GalleryAlex Prager: Farewell, Work Holiday Parties in DDB North America campaign for Miller Lite (© Alex Prager and Miller Lite, 2020)
Alex Prager: Farewell, Work Holiday Parties in DDB North America campaign for Miller Lite (© Alex Prager and Miller Lite, 2020)