Did anyone ever tell you that you’re beautiful when you’re following orders?






Video Stills

Part One


Did anyone ever tell you that you’re beautiful when you’re following orders? uses found video footage to look at the way people introduce creativity and individuality into their jobs; a singing bus driver, a beatboxing call centre operator, a dancing waiter. The work captures a sequence of fleeting and happenstance moments that draw our attention to people’s desire to express themselves. With a relentless rhythm, the beat of the workplace evolves to become the soundtrack; reminiscent of work songs of the past designed to increase productivity.

Whether the workers' activities are signs of genuine aspiration or simply the means of combating the monotony of daily toil, Curtis’s work is one of both despondency and hope. Challenging our assumptions of how we expect those individuals to act within the predefined roles of their employment, the work explores the creativity that exists within every job. It celebrates the skills and talents of those people who may be dreaming of another life where their talents are valued and put to good use.

Did anyone ever tell you that you’re beautiful when you’re following orders? is not a call for the abolition of work, neither is it a vision for a dystopian reality in which life’s participants are suppressed or unfulfilled. Instead the work offers insight into the generative space that can be created within the predefined and rigid structures of employment, a space that is only noticeable when the boundaries of our own assumptions are tested.

As the bus driver sings us out to Anne Murray’s You Needed Me the consolatory lyrics become almost emblematic of his own situation.

You held my hand when it was cold
When I was lost you took me home
You gave me hope when I was at the end
And turned my lies back into truth again
You even called me "friend"

You gave me strength to stand alone again
To face the world out on my own again
You put me high upon a pedestal
So high that I could almost see eternity
You needed me, you needed me

You needed me, you needed me


Written by Robert Dingle, Curator

Since completing his Masters at Goldsmiths (2009) Robert Dingle has worked closely with the Arts Council Collection to curate an exhibition drawn from the Collection. The Gathering opened in March 2010 at Longside Gallery at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. He is co-founder of Hold & Freight, London. He currently works as National Network & Strategic Projects Manager at the Contemporary Art Society, London.


Thanks to contributors:

Piroska Markus
Paul Hankin
Rachel Fairley/Ziggy
Luis F.Vargas


The work's title is taken from a gig poster for the punk band, The Feederz. Lead singer Frank Discussion, well known for his situationist-like subvertisements, wrote and distributed a diatribe against school and work in the form of a mock announcement from the Arizona Department of Education.


Photos of artwork installed at Art Rotterdam Projections 2013