Kunsthalle Basel

How to Work

27 Mar - 22 May 2011

How to Work - Juliette Blightman, Tania Pérez Córdova, Raphael Hefti, Tobias Kaspar, Adriana Lara, Adrian Melis, Pratchaya Phinthong, Pamela Rosenkranz, Pilvi Takala, Kunsthalle Basel, 2011
Installation view
From left to right
Adriana Lara
Non-fiction, 2011
Silkscreen print
29,7 × 42 cm
Courtesy the artist
Adrian Melis
The Making of Forty Rectangular Pieces for a Floor Construction, 2008
Video, color, sound
5’ 20’ ’
How is a storehouse built?, 2007
Video, color
4’ 50’ ’
All works courtesy the artist
Pamela Rosenkranz
Avoid Contact (Hot Pond), 2011
Acryl on Spandex
Appr. 200 × 160 cm
Avoid Contact (Peach Sweat), 2011
Acryl on Spandex
Appr. 200 × 160 cm
Avoid Contact (Brown Baby), 2011
Acryl on Spandex
Appr. 200 × 160 cm
All works Courtesy the artist & Karma International, Zurich
Photo: Gunnar Meier
© Kunsthalle Basel, 2011
27 March – 22 May 2011

Juliette Blightman, Tania Pérez Córdova, Raphael Hefti, Tobias Kaspar, Adriana Lara, Adrian Melis, Pratchaya Phinthong, Pamela Rosenkranz, Pilvi Takala

The exhibition “How to Work” at Kunsthalle Basel brings together nine international contemporary artists from the generation that emerged in the first decade of the new millennium. Collectively, their practices, however varied, are indebted to Conceptual art of the 1960s and ’70s, as well as its manifold incarnations in the later, neo-Conceptual work of the 1980s and ’90s that, following the seminal “Pictures” exhibition curated by Douglas Crimp in 1977, critically engaged with politics of image- and object-making. In the 1960s, Conceptual art consciously mirrored the larger economic change from an industrial to service-based economy that had been taking place since the ’50s, as fields like advertising and information technology gradually advanced and more traditional industries went into decline.

To that end, the participants in “How to Work” deploy an array of strategies that demonstrate a notable political and ethical awareness, acutely conscious of the present art world economy and its instant commodification of any work made within (or without) the system. They use found objects and material sourced from the Internet, they document or straightforwardly imitate the reality that surrounds them in order to achieve the estrangement of all-too-familiar content, they stage performative interventions simulating and twisting reality, they perform a détournement on classical techniques and genres, and they employ seriality or chance procedures to make their works.

“How to Work” attempts to look at possible ways of how one works as an artist today. The question of how to work in this cultural and political moment, and what that work should consist of, needs to be renegotiated or answered in a new way. The contemporary artists’ approach to work can be contextualized within the broader shift from material (manual) to immaterial (mental) labor, which is an indelible aspect of the change from an industrial economy (focused as it is on the manufacturing of specific products) to a service-based economy (providing as it does “solutions”). Even more recently, the knowledge-based economy has come to the fore, in which what matters is not the fixed and ready-available product or the way it is distributed, but how customers (now called participants) relate to each other. To counter the growing sameness of human relationships in the existing utopia of a global society that is composed of sharing, creative individuals, the artist’s work should make a difference. But can the very idea of making a difference be trusted?

The title of the Kunsthalle Basel exhibition quotes the artwork “How to Work Better” (1991), a ten-point manifesto by the Swiss artist duo Fischli and Weiss. Painted in large stenciled letters on the façade of an office building in Zurich, the titular work comprises ten short persuasive sentences (such as “know the problem” or “accept change as inevitable”) on how to work better, aimed at influencing the attitude of workers in order to improve the workplace environment, motivate creativity, and boost the quality of production—whatever it may be, wherever it is. At the same time, these new ten commandments seem to be retrieved from a creative director’s desktop trash folder (in former times, it used to be a dustbin), rather than invented by the artists themselves. The manifesto is patently generic, not tailored for any particular type of business, and the formulas it contains are so superficial that they can be read as a critique of the “aesthetics of bureaucracy” (a term often applied to Conceptual art, too), itself used as a cover for the constant strive toward the enhancement of “intellectual services” and the corresponding loss of tangible content in today’s creative industries, art included.

Fischli and Weiss’s “How to Work Better” also reads as a formal take on Conceptual art masterpieces like Lawrence Weiner’s enigmatic text works in block letters executed in galleries and public spaces around the world, or as a parody of formulations used in Sol LeWitt’s “Sentences on Conceptual Art” (1969), which include “Successful art changes our understanding of the conventions by altering our perceptions”. Interestingly, the source of the Fischli and Weiss work was a freestanding signboard featuring motivational sentences in English and Thai that the artists photographed in a pottery factory in Thailand in 1990. As cheap labor attracts global manufacturers to Thailand, local workers often travel abroad to find work, seeking better employment conditions. The motivational sentences appear to be gleaned from a Western European management manual, but when placed in a Thai factory, they immediately acquire an additional, distinctly Eastern flair. The Zen-like statements of “How to Work Better” seem to have lost their original intent in multiple translations – and money flows – across cultures and contexts.

The selection of works in “How to Work” at Kunsthalle Basel does not follow a thematic criterion, although many of the pieces exhibited address the economy of their own making and the way it relates to the larger economy. Accordingly, the title of the show is meant as a general framework of the question that every artist and worker today must face, and not as a fixed “theme” that the works should themselves illustrate. Rather than insisting on boosting quality, and instead of explaining “how to work better”, the exhibition proposes a critical reduction of the question, asking modestly how one works at all, now.

The exhibition has been generously supported by Annemarie Burckhardt.
With additional support by Roldenfund.

Juliette Blightman

Juliette Blightman, who was born in London, takes remote, apparently insignificant everyday situations as the starting point for her works. In slide and 16mm film projections, or in installation-based interventions in the exhibition space, she presents simple extracts from reality which she examines as to their inherent ambiguous gestural content. Since 2005 Blightman has been filming the view out of the window or the corner of a room in the apartments of family or friends. These silent portraits remain stationary until 20 seconds before the end of the film, when the camera pans through the room placing the previously isolated detail in context. By making subtle performative interventions into a setting with objective givens, Juliette Blightman uncovers diverse, mostly personal levels of experience which viewers can also perceive by revising their own worldview and that presented by Blightman. The artist is showing an installation entitled Prelude to an Afternoon (2011) at the Kunsthalle. On a large piece of paper we see a vague pencil sketch of potted plants on the landing of her mother’s house. Using a photograph, the artist copied that arrangement, albeit without including the shadow cast by the plant. The primarily source of light has been replaced by the glow of a real lamp standing on a plain stool near the wall. The installation furniture is from Blightman’s studio in Munich, where she is currently living as a scholarship-holder, and will remain in Basel for the duration of the exhibition. In front of this ensemble, yet at a slight distance, is a white bench, inviting the visitors to view the work from a specific distance determined by the artist. Moreover, this personal souvenir image is activated by a weekly performative intervention: a flautist playing Claude Debussy’s L’Après-midi d’un faune (1894), a melody which Juliette Blightman heard one afternoon in Berlin.

Juliette Blightman ( born 1980, Farnham, England) lives and works in London and Berlin. Solo shows (selection): The day grew dark, Künstlerhaus, Stuttgart (2010), The day grew darker still, Process Room, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2010); Tomorrow then, Hotel Gallery, London (2009); Nought to Sixty, ICA, London (2008). Group shows (selection): Death Dies, Tramway, Glasgow (2011); British Art Show 7, Nottingham and London (2010), Paradise Lost, Dirk Bell/Juliette Blightman, Kunstverein Arnsberg (2010); Silberkuppe, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden Baden (2009), Friends of the Divided Mind, Royal College of Art, London (2009).

Tania Pérez Córdova

The studio plays a central role in Tania Pérez Córdova’s artistic practice. This is where she experiments with material and form, developing her drawings, prints, objects and videos. Córdova is interested in the mechanisms of image production as well as the various production processes and meanings of an image or object and its contextualization. Welcome (2010) for example is a thin plywood board leaning against the wall, imprinted with a tambourine. Its dimensions make it reminiscent of a door and the deployment of an image symbolizing sound evokes associations with scenes of welcoming — the ritual of a possible dialogue that could equally be between visitor and object. Likewise in the video work Demostración (2008), object and people enter into a dialogue within eccentric ritual activity: several people sitting around a table hold magnetized objects in their hands whilst trying to attach paper clips to them in various arrangements. With works like Save your eyesight (2011) or Held shade (2011), Córdova presents a series of works which preserve both the moment of transformation and the fragile status of an object. The starting point of the group of works is a 135 mm film roll held in the sun from which the artist chose one of the few printable negatives and then had it enlarged and framed (Save your eyesight, 2011). The abstract image of light became the source for the motif shown in the first room, which was printed on long, vertical sheets of filter paper. Also the multiple casting of a follow up of each other, which are presented on two different pedestals — a wooden one and a white lacquered one — revolve around materiality and immateriality as well as the context and production of meaning. As the artist herself says: “For me an object is never autonomous, it is always located within the context of the respective situation.”

Tania Pérez Córdova (born 1979, Mexico City, Mexico) lives and works in Mexico City. Group shows (selection): Oceanfront Nights, Tamayo Museum Program, Art Basel Miami Beach, Miami (2010), Carrie on or Stow Away, Gambia Castle, New Zealand (2010), Draw, Museo de la Ciudad, Mexico City (2010); This Place you see has no size at all, Kadist Art Foundation, Paris (2009/2010); Jóvenes Creadores, FONCA, Centro Convenciones Aguascalientes (2008), National Arts Committee (a Sean Raspet Project for Daniel Reich Gallery), NADA art fair, Miami (2008), One Continuous Exhibition, National Arts (a Sean Raspet Project for Daniel Reich Gallery), Oppenheimer Strasse, Frankfurt (2008).

Raphael Hefti

Raphael Hefti is an alchemist in his own right: He forms steel bars as fragile as glass, lightens up entire mountain valleys or grows mushrooms in the exhibition space. His fascination and interest in the aesthetic potential of chemical processes and technical procedures is also the starting point of his work on view at Kunsthalle. The Lycopodium Series (2010/11) consists of large format black and white and color photograms, which have been exposed by the burning spores of the Lycopodium plant. The fine pored powder used by Hefti as the light source of his images is also known as a medicine in Homeopathy and used to be called “witch powder” in the Middle Ages, due to its high inflammability. The composition is foremost an accidental one – similar to the methods used in Drip or Action paintings in American Expressionism or Andy Warhol’s reference to these (Piss Paintings, 1977-78). The image composition is based on the immediacy of the material’s touch on the image carrier, with every trace becoming visible. On the black and white photograms, the light leaves surprisingly fine structures and layers, whereas the color prints depict a spectrum of lucid colors with unexpected depth.

Raphael Hefti ( born 1978, Biel, Switzerland) lives and works in London. Solo exhibition (selection): Beginning with the first thing that comes to mind, Fluxia, Milan (2011); Things in the Air, Museum Bell Park, Kriens (2009); Langblitzpulver, Kunsthaus Glarus (2008); Field Trip, Photoforum Pasquart, Biel-Bienne (2006). Group exhibitions (selection): The sun is the tongue, the shadow is the language, Ancient & Modern Gallery, London (2010), Interim show, Slade School of Fine Art, London (2010); New Contemporaries 2010, A-Foundation, Liverpool & ICA London (2010), Swiss Art Awards, Basel (2010); Lokal-Int, Biel-Bienne (2009); In den Alpen, Kunsthaus Zurich (2006).

Tobias Kaspar

Tobias Kaspar deals with the complex interrelation between context and work and with the discourse between work and interpret that is being triggered through the manifestation of meaning. In the Kunsthalle he is showing a spatially impressive presentation of photographs in white, large-format frames, which are hung at regular intervals cantilevered, parallel and at right angles to the wall. On a white surface a small photograph is to be seen showing various details of an equally white anorak: buttons, zips, pockets and the structure of the fabric’s weave are all visible. The details of the jacket, which originates from Tobias Kaspar’s own wardrobe, reveal little about either the garment or its possible wearer in their planimetric, rather low-contrast depiction. Instead functional elements demanding fine touch motor skills are foregrounded. Despite its visual presence in the space this haptic interest can only be subliminally experienced. A similar ambivalence is also generated by the diary- like titles of the works, such as Berlin, Wed June 1 (kitchen); A normal day in the city: Coffee; Nina coloring her hair or In bed, after the party (all 2010). They allow only subtle associations within the context of the depicted objects whilst additionally referring to a practice of titling photographs employed in the beginning of the 1990s, where titles served to suggest both immediacy and intimacy. Between fumbling exploration and a search for the visual traces of an individual life, which is to be found behind, or rather under the jacket, the glass-framed picture repeatedly intrudes.

Tobias Kaspar (born 1984, Basel, Switzerland) lives and works in Berlin. Solo shows (selection): Why Sex Now, Tobias Kaspar, Alex Zachary, New York (2011); Living Well is the Best Revenge, Silberkuppe, Berlin (2010); Sentimental Style, Hermes und der Pfau, Stuttgart (2009); Service Is My Business, Cultural Center CK, Skopje (2008). Group shows (selection): SO MACHEN WIR ES. Techniken und Ästhetik der Aneignung. Von Ei Arakawa bis Andy Warhol, Kunsthaus Bregenz (2011); Of Objects, Fields, and Mirrors, Kunsthaus Glarus (2010).

Adriana Lara

In her artistic practice the Mexican artist Adriana Lara examines the conditions and state of the art system whilst challenging its limits, frequently in a humorous way. In 2003 together with Fernando Mesta and Agustina Ferreyra, Lara founded the curatorial collective Perros Negros, she is the editor of Pazmaker, an art journal published quarterly as well as a member of the band Lasser Moderna. Her artistic work is characterized by a critical reflection on the varying approaches and forms which have been established within art. For example she placed a banana peel in the exhibition “The Generational: Younger Than Jesus” in the New Museum, New York (2009), a simple gesture creating much inconvenience for the museum attendants who had to ensure that no one was injured. In the Kunsthalle Lara is showing four canvases, three with the same abstract patterns, but in differing colors and one canvas showing blue brushstrokes on a white fabric, all titled Undo 1, 2, 3, 4 *(2011). The material is a swimwear fabric which Lara collected in Brazil. She had the elastic material attached to stretchers; with this simple gesture she returns a commercial product back to art. Additionally the four screen prints titled *Non-fiction (2011) were originally commissioned work which Lara, created for the well-known fish restaurant of the same name in her home town Mexico City. Instead of showing the prints in their original black and white form, she has enhanced the print with silver and in doing so raises questions regarding the value of a work. Appropriation and transcription are also the subjects of the works Balancing balls Newton’s cradle (2011), Birthing (2011) and Highway traffic (2011), which present three so-called “stock videos” on flat screens, that is generic videos produced by picture agencies which can be purchased online. These are built into a box and stand on pedestals, the artist’s acknowledgement of conditions which developing technology has continually changed: in contrast to the flat screen, conventional television monitors possess a three-dimensionality, and it is exactly this aspect which was often exploited in video art, by Nam June Paik amongst others, in the 60s as point of departure for the arrangement of monitors, leading to the expansion of the concept of sculpture and video. “It would be nice to think of the artist as professional amateur, some kind category that develops method rather than knowledge, that allows to explore different fields, like an actor whose method allows him to be a doctor, a kid, a politician. I consider myself an empiric,“ commented Lara in an interview concerning her multifarious approach to urgent questions within art.

Adriana Lara (born 1978, Mexico City, Mexico) lives and works in Mexico City. Solo shows (selection): salt 1: Adriana Lara, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City (2010); Adriana Lara: Cosas/Things, House of Gaga, Mexico City (2008); Adriana Lara: a problem has occurred, Air de Paris, Paris (2007). Group shows (selection): CGEM: Notes about Emancipation, MUSAC Leon, Leon (2010/2011); Like a river that stops being a river or like a tree that is burning on the horizon without knowing it is burning, Temporary Gallery Cologne, Cologne (2010); Passengers: Stowaways, CCA Wattis, San Francisco (2009), The Generational: Younger Than Jesus, New Museum, New York (2009).

Adrian Melis

Cuban artist Adrian Melis was born in Havana. His works engage with the working conditions and the resulting attitudes of employees in Communist Cuba. Melis takes a widespread refusal to work and lack of motivation as the occasion to set in motion a series of partly ironic, partly paradoxical actions. In the video entitled The Making of Forty Rectangular Pieces for a Floor Construction (2008) Melis avails himself of a standstill in production at a cement company so as to generate a new form of production. Because of a lack of material, the people employed there sometimes spend years doing nothing the whole day long. Melis decided to effectively inject new life into the factory for a whole day, from eight in the morning to five in the afternoon. He did this by paying the workers to imitate the sounds the machines would make during the production of forty rectangular pieces. In Night Watch (2005/06) Melis creates a paradoxical situation by documenting the production of a new guard’s house made of wooden laths. Melis had the house built for the guard at a state joinery, having previously stolen the wood from the same company — with the tacit understanding of that same guard. For The Value of Absence. Purchase of Excuses for Absence from your Workplace (2009/10) Melis filmed pretexts and excuses of people who did not want to go to work. The amount of money Melis paid the workers for their film sequence corresponded to the sum they would have earned during their absence from work. The artist’s latest video, Tourism without documents: From Barcelona to Basel (2011), produced specially for the exhibition at the Kunsthalle Basel, deals with his journey from Barcelona to Basel. While we watch shots taken from the train on the screen of a digital photo album, we learn from the subtitles, how various people point out the dangers to the artist of traveling in Europe as a Cuban without a valid passport. Although the pictures reproduce the smooth course of an apparently unspectacular journey, Melis was actually running a risk at every moment along the way. Comparably, Melis creates a discrepancy between image and sound in How is a storehouse built? (2007): a voice explains to us how different materials are classified and ordered in a storehouse and how the sales process is monitored, while we see pictures of stolen sacks of cement in private houses, stored in a similar way to the place from which they were pilfered.

Adrian Melis (born 1985, Havana, Cuba) lives and works in Barcelona. Group shows (selection): Temor y deseo de ser devorados, Bolít Contemporany Art Center, Girona (2011), XXXI Biennial of Pontevedra, Pontevedra (2011); Urban Research, Festival Directors Lounge, Berlin (2010), II.Festival Internacional Cine Cubano de Munich, Munich (2010); Batiscafo recidences, Development Center of Visual Arts, Havana (2009), Per Diem, Betonsalon, Paris (2009), Theoretical event, 10 Havana Biennial, I.S.A., Havana (2009), Art, Health and society, 10 Havana Biennial, Psychiatric Hospital Havana, (2009); Estado de excepción, 10 Havana Biennial, Habana Galery, Havana (2009), Video experimental y video arte: Artistas de Cuba, Museo di Antioquia, Medellín (2009), Contemporary Art room, Development Center of Visual Arts, Havana (2009), Inventary, Ludwig Fundation, Havana (2009), Le Fresnoy Habana Remix, National Museum of Fine Arts, Havana (2009).

Pratchaya Phinthong

The work of the Thai artist Pratchaya Phinthong is involved in the area of socio-economic creation of value, ascribing of value and destruction of value. Both conceptually and literally he is occupied with capitalist economic cycles, whose continuously accelerating drive to a neoliberal maximization of profits he counteracts with subversive artistic strategies. The work being shown in the Kunsthalle, An Average Thai Berry Picker’s Income (2010), originates from the period of his artist-in-residency at Centre d’Art Contemporain de Brétigny. Instead of staying in Paris as was scheduled, he worked for two months with other Thai seasonal workers as a berry picker in Sweden. As with all the workers, instead of the contractually promised 30000 krona at the end of the exploitative work which was supposed to be paid according to weight picked, he merely received 8000 krona of which only 2513 krona remained after the deduction of costs for gas and food. Down to the last krona and öre he is exhibiting the wages he earned framed under glass. He examines the question of monetary value in the work What I learned I no longer know; the little I still know, I guessed (2009), created during an exhibition in the Paris gallery gb agency. From Paris Phinthong set up a network with inhabitants of Zimbabwe, who he sent a total of 5000 Euros, generated from the sale of his earlier works. In return they continually sent him Zimbabwean dollars of arbitrary nominal value, as a galloping inflation reigns in the country. The work is based therefore on the good will of the senders of the notes which today are worthless and have been withdrawn from circulation, the accumulation of which increased the symbolic as well as the market value of the artwork during the period of the exhibition. In the two identical works Untitled (2007/2010) arranged one behind the other, Pratchaya explores the artistic and economic surplus value of reproducible artworks. With a canvas of the brand Renaissance still wrapped within its plastic packaging the artist raises the question of originality and simultaneously undermines it. Phinthong also engages with How to Work Better (1991), the work by Fischli/Weiss echoed in the exhibition title, containing instructions for the improvement of work efficiency. The original photograph provided by Fischli/Weiss of the sign in English and Thai installed in a Thai factory, now hangs on the narrow side of a bookcase located in the office space used by Kunsthalle Basel’s employees. Normally invisible to visitors, because a door separates this working area from the exhibition space, this segregation has now been negated by means of a spy glass – an intervention in the sense of a spatial extension as well as a reflection on the relative conditions of the “exhibition” as work place.

Pratchaya Phinthong (born 1974, Ubouratchathani, Thailand) lives and works in Bangkok. Solo shows (selection): Pratchaya Phinthong. Give more than you take, Centre d’Art Contemporain, Brétigny (2010); What I learned, I no longer know; the little I still know, I guessed, gb agency, Paris (2009); if i dig a very deep hole, gb agency, Paris (2007); Missing Objects, Chula Art Museum, Bangkok (2005). Group shows (selection): A serpentine gesture and other prophecies, Frac Lorraine, Metz (2011); L’exposition lunatique, Kadist Foundation Paris, Paris (2010), La monnaie vivante/The Living Currency/Die lebende Münze, Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin (2010), PERMANENT MIMESIS. An Exhibition on Realism and Simulation, Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Turin (2010).

Pamela Rosenkranz

The Swiss artist Pamela Rosenkranz amongst other things critically engages with historical Conceptual art movements, which she analyzes with distance and irony. In particular she questions the rather pathetic attempts with which many individual artists sought to force art and life into one. In Death of Yves Klein (2011), which she is presenting in the Kunsthalle, she examines the circumstances of Yves Klein’s early death at just 34, subsequent to a heart attack. Rosenkranz conducted interviews with Elena Palumbo-Mosca, a former model of Klein, as well as with several conservators about the living and working conditions of the apparently obsessive artist, who had developed a kind of cult star status around himself even when still alive. In addition to smoking and the consumption of amphetamines to withstand the ongoing and increasing pressure of producing, the extensive and unprotected contact with paints and solvents may also have contributed to his death. In addition to her sober, almost clinically scientific engagement with Klein’s biography, Rosenkranz refers to his works directly. In the video loop Death of Yves Klein she shows the “International Klein Blue”, Yves Kleins famous color blue mixed from ultramarine and cobalt, which he had patented in 1956. On the monitor’s color display however this color can only be rendered falsely, because it does not occur within the digital color spectrum. The meaningful materiality of the color gets dematerialized and disillusioned in a pragmatic way. On the video’s audio track she collates various health warnings concerning hazardous substances and their handling. Avoid contact (2011), Pamela Rosenkranz’ works on Spandex, an elastic synthetic fabric particularly popular for sportswear, are pinned to the wall and both comment upon and quote the works of Yves Klein. They are monotypes from acrylic paint which all depict skin tones. In a monotype process she transferred these from foil to textile. The viscous nature of the paint deforms the picture support whose coloring is similarly derived from human skin. Whilst Klein with his body prints abstracted the skin, that is the physical boundaries of a person, in color and form and directly imprinted it onto the canvas, Rosenkranz merely shows a surrogate of human appearance.

Pamela Rosenkranz (geboren 1979, Sils-Maria, Switzerland) lives and works in Amsterdam. Solo shows (selection): Untouched by Man, Kunstverein Braunschweig (2010), No Core, Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève, Geneva (2010), The most Important Body of Water is Yours, Karma International, Zurich (2010); Istituto Svizzero, Venice (2009), Test, Store Gallery, London (2006). Group shows (selection): Die Nase des Michelangelo, Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich (2010), Une Idée, une Forme, un Être-Poésie/Politique du corporel, Migrosmuseum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich (2010), The Real Thing, Tate Britain, London (2010), Big Minis, Fetishes of Crisis, Musée d’Art Contemporain, Bordeaux (2010), Declaración Anual de Personas Morales 2010, House of Gaga, Mexico City (2010).

Pilvi Takala

Finnish artist Pilvi Takala is the main protagonist of her video works. These centre on interventions she makes in the public and semi-public domains. In a subtle and often not immediately recognisable way, she mixes in with different groups of people, be it dressed as “Snow White” in front of the entrance to Disneyland Paris (Real Snow White, 2009) and thus causing a bit of confusion, or as an apparently normal consumer in a large shopping mall carrying a transparent shopping bag full of bank notes (Bag Lady, 2006) which certainly attracts people’s attention. For the multi-part video work The Trainee (2008) the artist had herself taken on as a trainee by the marketing department of the Deloitte company, under her second name, Johanna Takala, and for a period of a month during which she filmed herself with a hidden camera. After an initial phase in which she acted normally, Takala then began to change her behaviour, avoiding every physical, visible activity. After a certain time, she began to sit motionless at her desk gazing in front of her or spend a whole working day in the elevator (February 28, a Day in the Elevator). When asked what she was doing, she replied that she was working on her thesis and was thinking. The multi-part installation at the Kunsthalle Basel, which reproduces the office atmosphere, reflects in different sequences the confusion, amusement and helplessness of those around her in the face of a trainee acting differently to the accepted norm. In addition to The Trainee, the exhibition also includes her 2010 film Players, in which she portrays a Western poker group consisting of six players who live in Bangkok. A voice from the off briefly introduces himself and the other members of the group and reports on how they spend their day together — playing billiards, Nintendo, football, going to parties or having a massage. Pilvi briefly re-enacts these scenes and confronts them with found images on the internet related to their world. For these players, poker seems to be not so much a passion as one possible way of earning real money. Yet the basic rules of the game, which complies with probability theory, determine their social behaviour within the group. For example, all the members try to treat each other fairly as regards their financial and even personal involvement in their group. They regulate their lives in a systematic and analytical way, and do not seem to notice the absurdity of this.

Pilvi Takala (born 1981, Helsinki, Finland) lives and works in Amsterdam. Solo shows (selection): You Can’t Do What You Can’t Imagine, Finnish-Norwegian Culture Institute, Oslo (2010), Real Snow White, Backspace, Galerie Diana Stigter, Amsterdam (2010); The Trainee, Studio K, Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki (2009), Real Snow White, Masa-project, Istanbul (2009); The Angels, Turku Art Museum (2008). Group shows (selection): The Other Tradition, Wiels, Brussels (2011), If It’s Part Broke, Half Fix It, Contemporary Art Center Vilnius (CAC) (2011); And the moral of the story is... Morality Act III, Witte de With, Rotterdam (2010), Export-Import, Kunsthalle Helsinki (2010); RijksakademieOPEN, Amsterdam (2009); Flowers and Media, Helsinki City Art Museum, Helsinki (2008).

Tags: Ei Arakawa, Dirk Bell, Juliette Blightman, Tania Pérez Córdova, Raphael Hefti, Tobias Kaspar, Yves Klein, Adriana Lara, Sol LeWitt, Adrian Melis, Nam June Paik, Pratchaya Phinthong, Sean Raspet, Pamela Rosenkranz, Pilvi Takala, Andy Warhol, Lawrence Weiner, Fischli & Weiss