Productivity performance art, part II

May 12, 2007

Holding square flags diagonally divided, the productivity artist extends her left arm completely to the horizontal. She repeats the gesture with her right arm, holding it only a moment before bending at the elbow such that her right hand (still bearing its flag) rests on her left collarbone. She draws the right hand across her throat, indicating in the semaphore of productivity that she has committed e-mail bankruptcy.

Her momentarily cruciform position is the first step in this performance of exhaustion, and it indicates the extent to which she has suffered for her busyness. She has been pecked at by her e-mail messages, flayed by them.

Yet it is very rare to see the productivity artist in this position, for the public performance begins only in the next step. She “apologize[s] five times in five paragraphs, acknowledging that by not responding, [she has] failed in the most basic form of ‘cyber decency.'” Her confession is thorough, delimiting the effort she has made to be productive and her inadequacy for such a task; and her penance is the shame of the performance itself.

(Caravaggio, The Incredulity of St. Thomas)

And when she emerges from these humiliations, her disciples and coworkers may touch her wounds, incredulous at how she has suffered and been created (almost) anew.


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