Sofia Leibly

The Drama of Leisure
12.15.13 — 01.18.14

“When you have time, it is no longer free.” Jean Baudrillard, The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures, 1998

“ ‘Do you imagine that the clerks in my office use their intelligence, or that they reflect when they are copying papers? Oh, but they don’t; thinking is not their business; they are nothing but fingers which scribble.’ ” Paul Lafargue, Sale of an Appetite, 1903

The majority of my average week is beholden to a specific architecture of time. I work a 9-to-5, and so I am compensated for my labor per hour. At work, I am always watching the clock, hyper aware of time ticking by – what have I done this hour, that hour? I come home to the studio, a sectioned off part of my bedroom, and think about the six hours or so left to paint and I am uncomfortable facing this wide-open unstructured time. [1]

working: in an office before painting

working in an office: before painting

working in an office before: painting[2]

I get to painting and the paintings come out rather wiggly and over-caffeinated, maybe the result of having a little bit of energy left in my hands from typing all day. When I work in the studio at home, I try to make a mental switch in the way I think about time, so that I am no longer spending it…nor consuming nor wasting it…nor is it productive or unproductive. I am trying to value the time painting as some kind of unconstrained time, in the same way someone might use meditation, exercise or video game playing as time occupied towards a more subtle and indirect personal gain, activities valued for their present and subjective use[3] rather than their later exchange.

Artistic work then for me here is a ludic activity, painting from other paintings of mine, aiming to creating a cyclical language of forms hermetically sealed within the studio and physically moving things around and listening to loud music while I do so. It is in direct opposition to the kind of labor I do in the office, and closer to these personally useful, domestic activities. I have anxieties about presenting these paintings as “leisurely.” But leisure is a representation that doesn’t exist without the idea of working time; leisure is only ever a display of the consumption of time.[4]

It is important, then, that my process of making the paintings is self-generative, in its subjective use value; when I am painting in the studio I aim to segregate the activity from “work-work in order to label it as something more discrete and specific, that is, a process of image-making with an emphasis on composition using screen-print with acrylic painting. I work on the paintings horizontally and simultaneously, not with a linear narrative in mind but with an expansion outwards of color and form. To do so, I plein-air paint from my own paintings not towards realism but with an eye on capturing some kind of ‘gist’ of a composition, the way one might do a ten-minute gesture drawing in a figure drawing class (these were always my favorite exercises) or a partial-blind contour. As a result, the compositions and colors form a kind of DNA that solidifies across the paintings, which are visually somewhat inbred, with some genetic defects appearing in some works but not others but resurfacing to impair future generations. It is through this rigorous formal peeling-away framing time spent not as work but as “leisure” that I am able to access a distinct, circuitous, useful rather than exchangeable and self-satisfying process.

[1] “So, everywhere, we find in leisure and holidays the same eager moral and idealistic pursuit of accomplishment as in the sphere of work, the same ethics of pressured performance. No more than consumption, to which it belongs entirely, is leisure a praxis of satisfaction.” Baudrillard, Jean. Consumer Society: Myths and Structures (1998), 155.

[2] Randall Szott, in conversation with the author about her paintings, 11/20/2013

[3] Ibid., 153. “For this is the exigency which lies at the bottom of ‘free’ time: that we restore to time its use-value, that we liberate it as an empty dimension to fill it with its individual freedom.”

[4] Ibid., 158. “And leisure is not the availability of time, it is its display. Its fundamental determination is the constraint that it be different from working time.”

(b. 1989) Sofia Leiby is an artist, writer and project-based curator living in Chicago. She has exhibited her paintings, collages and prints at, among others, Springsteen Gallery, Baltimore; KRETS, Malmö, Sweden; LVL3, Alderman Exhibitions, and peregrineprogram in Chicago. She has organized alternative curatorial projects such SCRAP HEAP, a sale of artists’ scraps, at the Medium Cool Art Book Fair, and co-curated Installation Views, an exhibition of photographic documentation of artworks at New Capital Projects. She was contributing editor of the media theory journal Pool from 2011-12 and is the co-founder of Chicago Artist Writers, an online platform for artist-authored criticism of alternative spaces in Chicago. She has contributed to the online journal WOW HUH and regularly publishes art criticism in New City. In 2013, she was included in the Midwest Issue of New American Paintings. She received her BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago SAIC in 2011.

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