Ellie Harrison - Timelines

  • 12 December 2013 - 9 March 2014

For almost five years Ellie Harrison documented and recorded information about nearly every aspect of her daily routine as part of her artistic practice. These laborious, demanding and introverted processes grew ever more extreme until she devised the ultimate challenge in 2006 for Timelines - to attempt to document everything she did, 24 hours a day, for four weeks.

Artist

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Ellie Harrison

Ellie Harrison
Artist (UK)

For almost five years Ellie Harrison documented and recorded information about nearly every aspect of her daily routine as part of her artistic practice. These laborious, demanding and introverted processes grew ever more extreme until she devised the ultimate challenge in 2006 for Timelines - to attempt to document everything she did, 24 hours a day, for four weeks.

Timelines was motivated by Ellie’s overwhelming feeling that she was ‘always at work’, it was to be an empirical study - monitoring exactly where all her time was going - to find out whether this was indeed true. What had seemed like a simple proposition quickly became an all-consuming ritual in which she was forced to take on the dual role of ‘observer’ and ‘observed’. On the first day she confessed that ‘It was horrible feeling so trapped - I couldn’t do anything without generating and accumulating data’, and so she rationalised the experiment by categorising her time into 17 possible activities such as ‘art practice’, ‘domestic work’ or ‘leisure’. Each day the data was transferred onto an expansive spreadsheet. By the end of the four weeks it contained 2,297 entries, which were then transposed into a series of 28 colour-coded timelines.

Shortly after the completion of Timelines Ellie quit ‘data collecting’ and entered into a period of self-reflection and re-invention in order to develop a ‘healthier and more outward looking practice’. Ellie emerged from this process with a far greater awareness over her role as a cultural producer within a wider economy.

Harrison realised that the feelings she was experiencing of a state of continual labour were not just an isolated case, but were in fact symptomatic in growing trends in the global labour market, which have arisen from advances in information technology, as well as strategic policies to promote the freelance lifestyle. Recent projects such as Work-a-thon for the Self-Employed (2011), have seen her actively draw attention to and attempt to counteract the negative side effects of this ‘privatisation of work’ - both the isolation and the unregulated and increasingly longer working hours - within a wider community of creative practitioners. 

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