The Service Room
On September 8, Maayan Strauss will begin work on The Service Room, a project that will create a unique environment and framework for the communal exchange of services. Centered on a customized and hybridized kitchen countertop, the project will enable disparate activities to exist on the same literal and symbolic plane and, in so doing, imagine a world in which varying types of labor co-constitute a sustainable system of non-extractive transactions.
The sculptural countertop form will occupy the center of the space and will include functional design features—such as sinks, an electric stovetop, an electric oven, a massage table, and a computer workstation—tailored to facilitate a host of possible services. Through an online scheduling system, individuals will be able to register to either provide or receive services that are facilitated by the countertop’s utilities. Potential activities to be offered by way of exchange include manicure, massage, graphic design, copyediting, sewing repairs, and meal preparation, though participants will be welcome to contribute additional services based on their skills and their peers’ demands. In its material form, the countertop will straddle the representational space of photography and the physical space of architecture, echoing Strauss’s background as a photographer and architect; the counter’s camera-ready appearance will anticipate its digital circulation, while its structure will suggest the precise yet experimental traits of an architectural model.
The Service Room takes inspiration from the modern kitchen as an example of how design can profoundly influence society. The evolution from the pre-20th century kitchen’s function as a hidden place of service to the modern iteration—which incorporates electronic appliances and social engineering products as key to its role as a site of entertainment and gathering—demonstrates the ways in which changes in design can give rise to distinctive forms of sociality. Taking up this potential, The Service Room’s hybrid nature is designed to provide a productive and supportive infrastructure that can generate new forms of communal exchange.
In the current moment, as the promises of independent work within the sharing economy proliferate, there is a pressing need to interrogate the existing systems and push back against their inherently extractive logic. The Service Room is a timely response to these conditions—and one that goes beyond a political shift in rhetoric to instead present a possibility for reinventing increasingly precarious social structures. Foregrounding the correlation between physical space and agency, the project aims to model new forms of social exchange by reimagining the hierarchy of labor types and the engine of our economy. As an alterative to “sharing economy” apps, which are often driven by the controlling authority of venture capital, The Service Room makes available the desirable elements of flexibility, on-demand services, and individual choice within a physical space and without the mediation of a profit-oriented third party stakeholder. As it takes shape within Recess’s Soho storefront, surrounded by specialty retailers and boutique service agencies, The Service Room will endeavor to create a temporary oasis in which commercial circuits are rerouted to yield a generative social platform.
Strauss commissioned designer Lauren Francescone to create a graphic identity for the exhibition and a parallel set of ceramic objects. These branded, multipurpose sculptures may be used by all participants of The Service Room. All objects are available for purchase as part of the commission, itself an exchange between Strauss and Francescone.
About the artist
On view: November 11, 2023–January 25, 2024
Marcela Torres and Assembly
September 14–November 10, 2023
KING COBRA and Hue Hallums