Artists Sophie Bullock and Sophie Huckfield are collaborative performance duo ‘Ambience Factory’. Ambience Factory is a faux-corporate brand whose remit is to satirise the commodification of anxiety, generated through toxic work practices, used to make individuals more productive under a transparent guise of better wellbeing.
The performance work was originally developed in collaboration with the ‘The Contemporary Philosophy of Technology Research Group’ at the University of Birmingham. We expanded upon their academic works surrounding the emotional impacts of neoliberalism on the workforce, and the heightened responsibility of the individual to cope by thinking differently about their situation. We aim to dissect the implication of how ‘McMindfulness’ has filtered into schools, the NHS and the arts. As artists our performance explores how our ‘expertise’ in the arts, the precarious nature of being an artist and the unreasonable conditions we are forced to accept as part of being an artist.
We use playful performances to disseminate this research to wider audiences. Our performances currently take the form of an inspirational TED style talk, or a motivational PowerPoint presentation. We echo corporate jargon to promote our vacuous self-help brand and sell products and services to unleash worker potential and obtain enlightenment, whilst subversively criticising the corporate adoption of mindful exercises to increase productivity and profits.
There is an undeniable correlation between rising rates of mental distress and the neoliberal mode of capitalism. Stress has now been sold back to us as an individual burden - the privatisation of stress conveys that not only is capitalism inherently dysfunctional but the cost of it appearing to work is very high.
We aim to push our project beyond satire and foster new forms of counter corporate activism- using the "tools of neoliberalism to chip away at neoliberalism itself". One of the defining characteristics of capitalism is its ability to assimilate and silence. Protest - especially in the UK- has become a victim of this assimilation. Ambience Factory aims to rethink activism and highlight the absurdities and injustices embedded within organisations and institutions, middle managers and CEOs.