Exhibitions > Fiona Ball & Drew Davis: The Doldrums

The sticky smell of sunscreen on a sunbathers body wading through the shallow end of the pool to do laps. Cardio is important for one’s physical appearance. A dirty martini with two olives, but occasionally a mimosa. You know, Vitamin C is good for the skin.

The iconography of American Leisure has yet to dramatically change since the 1950s, the era our imperialist regime regards as the ultimate aspirational period in American history. The classic tableau of housewives sitting by the pool, mundanely chatting. No responsibilities, the nanny has the children. Neighbors cycle through for a drink, each gossiping about the last visitor. Tomorrow the pool boy arrives, he and the housekeeper will tidy up the remnants of today’s lethargy.

To understand American Leisure, one must first dissect the tangling with which leisure must counter-exist to labor. The dichotomy between the two has been exemplified through the pillars of capitalism. Nicole Shippen speaks to the hierarchy capitalism creates, where the top most echelons have access to the time and capital necessary for leisure: “There are, of course, political reasons as to why particular individuals spend more or less time on necessity that are related to the intersectionality of various structural forms of oppression further mediated by the colonization of time by capital.” Capital gives privilege to leisure, and time for leisure requires labor to be carried out by those who cannot afford leisure. Leisure exists on the backs of laborers, and is controlled by those who hold authority over those who must labor. Leisure is an accessory to power.

Shippen states, “Leisure is seldom recognized as political,” and yet it holds a concreteness to the failure of capitalism through its scarcity. Leisure is self-determined time, and thus the only opportunity where individuals are free to explore, question, and ponder, or not. All should have access to leisure, but as long as there is a need for production and labor for the sake of existing, and that this embodies the structural integrity of an economy, there will always be individuals who are excluded from leisure.

The Doldrums exists as an extended vignette, a moment in time for the viewer to contemplate leisure as we understand it from an American perspective. The work is divided into two scenes of leisure. The first an oft-maligned image of lethargy, bodies in sheer garb layabout the shimmer of the waters edge. A complete disinterest is upon them as they soak up the ever beating sun and gentle swifts of music. Presented with tea, they gather, adorn weights, and submerge to commence with the liquid fête galante. The quaint scene is viewed through the distortion of the water, a penetrable but inconvenient barrier.

The viewer must also recognize their own access to leisure by attending this performance. The time and capital required to transport yourself to attend this event, the freedom to time to view the performance, and then partake in a communal brunch with the artists and curator. The time to go home, and think about what they have experienced. We hope you consider this experience as leisure time well spent.

Documentation by Nicole Fraser-Herron.