Each community follows a more or less implicit code of conduct. Its rules may be largely unwritten or even unwittingly adopted, but they nevertheless govern all interactions within a given context. In her many performative interventions, Pilvi Takala infiltrates different settings, from an office environment to a department store, in order to research, perform, and eventually expose their repertoires of social conventions.
The title of Takala’s solo exhibition at KRIEG is a term taken from startup culture (the site of both of these works) that refers to the practice of giving shares to employees or contractors in exchange for labour. Even to those unfamiliar with this jargon, the title connotes a sense of laborious bargaining, with ‘sweat’ implying exertion or nerves, and equity doubling as a state of fairness, a nod to Takala’s ongoing involvement with issues of consent and negotiation.
It also seems to speak to the very bodily methods that Takala employs when making her works; that the process requires her to be present, to use the body as a tool or a mediator – to have skin in the game. There are parallels between her need to fully (and physically) commit to the process, and the merchandising of the self that is so commonplace within the startup world, perhaps that’s why her works are as sympathetic as they are critical.
‘At KRIEG, Takala presents videos documenting and reconstructing two of her skilfully staged social situations. The Stroker (2018) is set at Second Home, a trendy East London coworking space for young entrepreneurs and startups. During her two-week-long intervention at that space, Takala posed as wellness consultant Nina Nieminen, providing ‘touching services’ in the workplace. The nuances of movement of both the consultant and the ‘touchees’ demonstrate how people negotiate the dilemma of being mediated bodies under social pressure, and how such responses are controlled by the tacit conventions of ‘acceptable behaviour’. In the clear-walled, open-thinking space of The Stroker, we witness a physical negotiation of boundaries where there seemingly are none. The video produced in 2018 has become eerily relevant today, in the face of global pandemic challenging our perception of boundaries and private/public space.
If your heart wants it and If your heart wants it (remix) is a new work by Takala, produced during her residence at Aalto Business School in 2018 and co-produced by KRIEG. For this project, the artist and her interdisciplinary team fabricated a tech-startup to be able to access the 2018 edition of SLUSH – a super event in Helsinki bringing together entrepreneurs with venture capitalists in a party-like environment. While attending events, talks and afterparties, the team observed and initiated a range of social interactions with everyone, from volunteers to investors. If your heart wants it exposes the friction between the often explicit declarations of social and environmental responsibility, which help to boost a company’s image, and the implicit capitalist rationale underlying the competitive culture of the startup world. Even though there is the potential to provide more sustainable and valuable solutions, real change remains just out of reach.
Pilvi Takala (b.1981, Helsinki) graduated from the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts in 2006. Her solo exhibitions include e.g. Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm; Kunsthalle Erfurt; Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki; Kunsthal Aarhus, Denmark and Sorlandets Kunstmuseum, Norway. Her work has been shown in e.g. MoMA PS1 and New Museum, New York; Palais de Tokyo; Kunsthalle Basel; Witte de With, Rotterdam; and the 9th Istanbul Biennial. Takala won the Dutch Prix de Rome in 2011 and the Emdash Award in 2013. The winning work was presented at the Frieze Art Fair in London. In 2013 she also won the Finnish State Prize for visual arts and was nominated for the Ars Fennica. Takala has been selected to represent Finland at the 59th Venice Biennale in 2021. The exhibition in the Pavilion of Finland is curated by Christina Li, and commissioned and produced by Frame Contemporary Art Finland. She lives and works in Berlin and Helsinki.