Although it is well known that large corporations deal with the challenges of the new global economy by firing massive numbers of workers (euphemistically known as downsizing) few are aware that a new profession, the corporate trainer or coach, has evolved to assist with this process. As consultants brought into workplaces to evaluate the effectiveness of the workforce (who should stay and who should go) and to help with the problems this creates, corporate trainers play a role traditionally belonging to personnel or human resource departments. However, as outside experts or “specialists” rather than co-workers, their work carries the aura of a therapist or marriage counselor--someone focused on the best interests of everyone involved--thus masking the fact that they are really there to deploy the demands of management and consider only the bottom line.
In an ongoing series of installations titled Personnel: A Project About the Museum as a Workplace, I have taken on the role of corporate trainer, using similar processes but turning its value system inside out. After interviewing an art organization’s staff to better understand repeating institutional patterns and hierarchies, I then propose interventions in their workspaces and routines that will add to their pleasure, comfort and well being while at the same time playfully nudge their existing power structures.
In this presentation, I will explain my research processes and describe some of the proposals and projects included in the Personnel series. Up to now, because Personnel has focused on the workplaces of institutions that present art, the ways in which these contexts and frameworks contribute to the meaning and value of the work they show also becomes part of the investigation. For “On the Edge of Growth” I will also propose how Personnel might work in a variety of other corporate situations and examine some of the value systems inherent in those contexts.