Office Vibes is a love letter to the golden age of corporate kitsch
“I’ve always been fascinated by the office mood and the multiple ways you can interpret it,” says the Barcelona-based DJ behind Office Vibes (@__________office), the Instagram account cataloguing the golden era of office cubicles, desktop PCs and landline telephones. “I’m a retro technology lover – I collect retro computers, 80s watches, lamps, and old synthesisers.” In this vein the account also manifests as a love letter to the work spaces most prominent in late 20th-century stock imagery.
“My inspiration was actually MySpace,” continues the anonymous curator. “Around 2005, there was this guy just called Jpeg, who created four or five folders with content from the 80s and 90s: a folder with people wearing big mohair jumpers with animals sewn on, another with ugly family pictures, embarrassing haircuts, and one with office parties. I don’t know why but this folder with just ten or 12 pictures really captured my attention.” Besotted ever since, the curator’s own account now boasts 200 images, handpicked for their window into corporate aesthetics.
A rejection of the over-curated, knowingly cute interiors that elsewhere fill Instagram’s neat squares – for now at least – the months old account instead champions those set-ups which owe their particular brand of kitsch to age. Earlier posts wouldn’t look out of place in a commercial for Subway sandwich platters or Gateway computers circa 1996, later images meanwhile range from those that highlight the use of primary coloured accents (a chair here, a desk lamp there) to those archiving office plant situations and eccentric fish tanks.
“It’s difficult to say why, but the office desk is your parallel life,” the account’s founder offers of this fascination with where people go to work. “People bring with them the things that remind them of life outside the office – family pictures, ornaments. It can be interpreted as sentimental, but it’s not: people spend 40 hours a week in the office, and if you add colleague friendships, after-work dinners, mandatory celebrations, the office is like a second family. There’s the people you love, the people you hate, the newbie working their first day, the old man ready to retire...”
While there’s no set criteria for a post on Office Vibes (“I just post what I like, but 80 percent is mid-90s, and I go crazy for 90s ties,” they explain), the digital curator highlights the areas they call clichés – the photocopier room and the vending machines – as favourite office-based arenas. Beyond the internet, the fictional workplace of Michael J. Fox in 1987’s The Secret of My Success and the grey palette of 1999’s Office Space are held dear as on-screen records of business rooms.
And the work station of Office Vibes’ founder? “Very retro, with Persian carpets, ceramic animal statues, and also Kentia trees and banana plants,” they tell AnOther. “I have two kinds of set-up, the official one with a Macbook, and the old school one with an Atati ST where I compose music using just one megabyte of memory, enough to sync all my synths, FX and drum machines.”
Ready to disrupt the nostalgic narrative and add a layer of modern mundanity to their Instagram postings, the account holder has more recently put out a call for followers to contribute their own office settings for the purpose of the account – “2018 Office Vibes” if you will. “I would like to show what these current ‘vibes’ are, as there are two kinds of office I like; the new one and the old one.” The specifications for a good looking contemporary office? “Minimal with a new-retro style, and a nice view from the window. I prefer nature, but a good skyline is ok.”