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Artist-in-Residence Pilvi Takala (2018): Art with your own body by misbehavin

In the Artist-in-Residence position at Aalto University, the purpose of art is to arouse questions in a cross-disciplinary manner.
Takala made a bold artwork at accountancy firm Deloitte. The artwork shakes up everyday life in the office by essentially doing nothing. Hidden cameras were recording the other employees’ reactions to Takala’s unconventional working methods, as after two weeks of working, she simply sat down at an empty desk in silence. If anybody asked, she said she was doing ‘brainwork’.

Artist Pilvi Takala misbehaves in order to expose the implicit rules of communities. She is Artist-in-Residence in the Department of Marketing at the School of Business, through her practice she attempts to provoke her environment into critical thinking. Many of her works have been situated in corporate environments, Takala stirs people’s reactions by fracturing social rules in everyday situations.

Takala’s video works are based on site-specific performances and interventions. The internationally renowned artist puts herself out there when researching the grey areas of unspoken negotiation such as how to behave and treat others.

‘The artworks are based on research done with my own body. My method is going towards the awkward and uncertain, but that is precisely how interesting situations are found’, says Takala.            

Takala graduated with a Master’s degree from the Academy of Fine Arts in 2006. She has also studied at the Glasgow School of Art and spent the past ten years living abroad in Amsterdam, Istanbul and Berlin. Takala’s works have been exhibited in various exhibitions worldwide, most recently in London, Århus and Glasgow.

Brainworker in a lift

Many of Takala’s artworks come into existence at places of employment, where group dynamics maintain unwritten rules. Utilising misbehaviour makes the adopted norms of a situation visible.

‘In business communities, there are various silent and subtle rules as well as internal tensions. Art can bring to light difficult and problematic issues within corporate life and show that not everything is just wonderful on the road to success.’   

‘One common norm at the office may be, for instance, how to look like an efficient worker.’

That is precisely one of the things explored in The Trainee, a bold artwork Takala made at accountancy firm Deloitte. The artwork shakes up everyday life in the office by essentially doing nothing. Deloitte let Takala perform as a marketing trainee at their Helsinki office. Hidden cameras were recording the other employees’ reactions to Takala’s unconventional working methods, as after two weeks of working, she simply sat down at an empty desk in silence. If anybody asked, she said she was doing ‘brainwork’. In another scene Takala is travelling in a lift for a whole workday, when asked she tells the other workers she can think better when standing in a lift. Some thought the new employee was a breath of fresh air, the others found her frightening. 

‘By disturbing familiar working methods, I generated conversation, which at best can encourage critical thinking and insight into our own normative behaviours.’

Breaking boundaries and working together

The Artist-in-Residence programme at the School of Business at Aalto University is a brilliant instrument for clashing rational and creative thinking. By stretching and breaking boundaries, fresh ideas can be born. First of its kind in the Nordic countries, the programme was founded in 2011 and it brings together art, science, technology and business.

‘New thought processes are essential when you want to really create something new or solve big problems. Bringing together people from the very top of their own fields inspires everyone to think about things from a wider perspective and a new angle. This prompts openings that would otherwise not emerge’, says Anna Valtonen, Dean of the School of Arts, Design and Architecture.

Takala is excited about the one-year-long residency, the main task of which is to produce an artwork.

‘If I sit alone in my room, I cannot produce anything. My works emerge from everyday life amidst different communities and from studying their dynamics. At the School Business, I want to make an artwork that has a starting point right here.’

Clashing together different disciplines and people is essential to the making of her piece. The goal is to look for something new through discussion, experimentation and curious investigation.

During the residency, Takala will host a workshop as part of the University Wide Art Studies directed at all Aalto University students. One of the tasks is just to be around and encourage natural exchange of ideas between art and a business perspective.

In August Takala’s solo exhibition will open at Kiasma in Helsinki. The exhibition will showcase both new and old video art produced at places of employment.

Pilvi Takala: Real Snow White, 2009, videostill

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