Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live in a cartoon? The London office of advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy commissioned graphic artist Emily Forgot and installation artist Laurie D to transform their storefront into a black-and-white cardboard office inspired by Roy Lichtenstein’s paintings. Titled "Real Life at Work" and rendered in '60s pop art lines, the monochromatic space looks two-dimensional until a 3-D human comes along and sits at the desk, effecting a surreal optical illusion.
The wry installation is complete with a clock that moves backwards, a chunky typewriter, crumpled wads of paper on the floor, and an incessantly ringing phone. And it turns the daily office grind into a type of performance art. Though month’s end, passersby can watch people, stationed in the space, going about their business behind the glass labeled: “Real Life Creative Team at Work.” Their activity is also broadcast via webcam on the installation’s website. (Sometimes the video stream just features an empty chair, but if you catch a live worker, watching her toil at this parody of an office desk from your own office desk can be a bit existential angst-inducing.)
Placing real humans in this animated space creates a sort of inverted Space Jam effect. It’s also a bit reminiscent of Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams, in which characters walk through landscapes that replicate famous paintings.
The pop-up space is part of Wieden + Kennedy’s Hello Neighbour initiative, launched in 2012, in which they commission creative people working within a one-mile radius to create a unique display for their storefront window each month. Past installations have included a massive quilted Union Jack, with each of the 15 squares designed by a different artist, and a spookily projected Halloween ghost.
“Real Life at Work” is on display at 16 Hanbury Street in London until August 31.