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Mika Tajima Versus the Cubicle

August 19, 2011

How does design shape society? In this film, artist Mika Tajima traces the legacy of the influential Action Office furniture line—developed by Herman Miller—and how it serves as the inspiration for her own work. Introduced in 1964 and still in production today, the Action Office is a modular and customizable system of semi-enclosed cubicles.

Intended to spur efficiency and productivity in the workplace, Tajima views the widespread adoption of the cubicle in the 1970s and 80s as profoundly dehumanizing, with each worker isolated in a sea of confined spaces. For her work, Tajima acquires and modifies an original set of Action Office wall panels, configuring them into non-functional, sculptural arrangements. Tajima connects the unintended consequences of Herman Miller’s modernist aesthetic, with its insistence on shaping human behavior, to contemporary problems in the twenty-first Century.

More information and credits

Credits

Art21 New York Close Up Created & Produced by: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Editor: Joaquin Perez & Mary Ann Toman. Cinematography: Jarred Alterman & Andrew David Watson. Key Grip: John Marton. Sound: Nicholas Lindner & Nick Ravich. Associate Producer: Ian Forster. Production Assistant: Paulina V. Ahlstrom, Don Edler & Maren Miller. Design & Graphics: Crux Studio & Open. Artwork: Mika Tajima. Archival Material: Herman Miller. Thanks: Linda Baron, Ron Reeves, & Tim Saltarelli. An Art21 Workshop Production. © Art21, Inc. 2011. All rights reserved.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Licensing

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Mika Tajima

Mika Tajima was born in 1975 in Los Angeles, California, and lives and works in New York. Taking international political, social, and economic points of reference as her inspiration, Tajima employs sculpture, painting, installation, and performance in her conceptual practice. She does in-depth research on topics—such as Herman Miller’s Action Office furniture line and the international price of gold—before translating her findings into physical objects that articulate and critique the ways that these things affect human lives.

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