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Shapes of Complaint


Shapes of Complaint
From Recent Experience in the Gallery and the University, Stripped of Life’s Complexities

by Simon Farid

What follows is a series of visual accounts showing four encounters with complaints I had in Spring/Summer 2022 through working as an invigilator at a major art gallery in central London and as a resident artist at the Institute of Advanced Studies, UCL. In the first two accounts I am the original articulator of the problem, in the other two I am a point in the chain as the complaint takes a route through the institution.

These accounts are an attempt to make diagrams of the shapes complaints can take within institutions. While I have tried to be as systematic as possible in plotting them, they remain arbitrary in that my decisions positioning the different parties involved are subjective. Despite this, I hope the shapes themselves can point to something noteworthy about how a complaint gets passed around, travels convoluted routes and often never reaches a meaningful destination.

When undertaking to chart these paths, my initial guiding metaphor was that of the closed loop, with a problem being relayed around parties with no outlet or route to resolution. While this would have made for more visually pleasing outcomes, when actually plotting the points it became clear to me that more often the metaphor was that of recurrence, of the same shape repeating over time, either with a replacement problem or replacement parties.

As a result two of the four diagrams could repeat indefinitely, with another forming the anticipated closed loop and the other being a relatively rare instance of a grievance being resolved! For practical reasons I have limited the visual repetitions to three times, but know they could have gone on much longer.

In the first iteration, each of the parties will be named in the diagram.

In the second iterations, names are removed.

Now points will be removed to better visualise the shape of the route followed.

SIMON FARID is a sometime visual artist, moretime art gallery invigilator and current Visiting Research Fellow at the IAS. Simon is interested in workers conditions and experience, institutional critique, surveillance cultures, solitary poetics and alternative research frameworks and methods.

Images: Simon Farid