Printed Matter, Inc.
by Jessica Vaughn
Printed Matter is pleased to announce the publication of Depreciating Assets, a new artists’ book by Jessica Vaughn investigating labor, diversity politics, and the material environment of the American workplace. With a new lens to the artist’s multidisciplinary practice, the project examines how affirmative action and other office equity measures are intersected by corporate infrastructure and, specifically, the physical layout of office space.
Across four interwoven sections and related appendices, Vaughn assembles her photographs and critical writings alongside xeroxed images, diversity training video stills, and manipulated open source documents of the US Government. The project considers and distills the symptoms of late 20th and 21st century work culture produced by open office plans and modular architecture’s promise of malleability, compliance, and universality — provisions that bid for increased efficiency and productivity at the expense of visibility for Black workers and workers of color. Vaughn looks at how minimalist design gestures of the modern office (as envisioned by Rem Koolhaas’ formative essay “Typical Plan,” and Herman Miller’s Ethospace brochures) cannot exist outside the conditions of race, class and labor.
The project also includes an interview between Vaughn and curator Magdalyn Asimakis, in which the two discuss the structural failings of arts and cultural institutions to practice equitable inclusion of artists of color, or to develop a language and praxis in support of diverse programming that extends beyond compliance, optics, and concerns of the market. Vaughn draws connections between the operations of these institutions to that of the corporate environment, and discusses the ways in which she manipulates their commonalities through the material of her work.
In its design, Depreciating Assets intentionally replicates the style, materials, and colors outlined by the US Government Publishing Office — standards set to ensure design efficiency and the economical production of their internal documents. The book draws from the familiar copyshop palette of Venetian blue, tan pink, salmon, green and brown, and uses varied paper stocks in accordance with Paper Standard specifications. In doing so the project takes on and examines the homogeneity imposed by so-called ‘corporate efficiency measures,’ and the fundamental tension between diversity initiatives and one-size-fits-all approaches to office resources.
The publication concludes with an afterword by the author contextualizing the project’s themes within the contemporary reality of global pandemic, economic precarity, and protests against racist state violence. Here Vaughn explores how in the absence of an adequate governmental response to structural problems, workplaces implement ad-hoc solutions (such as plexi-dividers) that still leave workers vulnerable and at risk — most acutely, Black workers who are often underinsured.
Depreciating Assets is published by Printed Matter, Inc. Produced in an edition of 600 copies, paperback, 130 p., 8.5x11 in., tape bound, with 4-color spot printing on six varied stocks.
Available for purchase here.
View a conversation between Jessica Vaughn and Magdalyn Asimakis on the project here.
“Jessica Vaughn: Our Primary Focus Is To Be Successful,” a major survey of new and recent work by the artist is on view February 26 through May 9, 2021 at the ICA Philadelphia. More info.
Brooklyn-based artist Jessica Vaughn primarily works with discarded and mass-produced materials to create artworks that convey the complex histories of place, production, and use. Assembling open-source US government documents, print materials of the HR industry, and photographs of banal office spaces from Vaughn’s own work history, Depreciating Assets explores labor, diversity politics, and the material environment of the workplace, and specifically how modular architecture is an outcome of neoliberal labor policy.
Publication Support Depreciating Assets is published as part of the Emerging Artists Publication Series. The book is made possible with the support of the Jerome Foundation and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, as well as the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.