artists & participants
We presented Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen (1971) and Tellervo Kalleinen (1975), the artist duo from Finland, already in “Im/Possible Community”, our first exhibition (Shedhalle 2009). There, we showed the video “The Making of Utopias”, resulting from a collaboration with four drop-out communities in Australia, giving a lively portrait of utopian communities. And we produced a Complaints Choir for Zurich, the Complaints Choirs being one of the most successful projects of Kalleinen/Kochta-Kalleinen that, by now, has taken on a life of its own, apart from the artists who initiated it. As a result of this fascinating experience and the impression that these two artists are developing communicative and community-related practices in a very independent and distinct way, we decided to focus on their practices of participation, collectivity, and varying constellations, and to further develop some of their projects here in Zurich. “I love my Job” (2008–10), “People in White” (2011), “Dreamland” (2010), “Complaints Choirs” (2012), as well as “Archipelago Science Fiction” (2012) that was finished especially for this exhibition are complemented by the “Off Art Talent Show” of the group JOKAklubi, especially produced for Zurich, and by an installation and participative game of the group YKON. Both, Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen, are part of these collaborative groups. As opposed to the fact that the videos be perceived as autonomous works of art the production processes of which are elaborate and take a long time, working with these groups involves the momentary in general and the input of the participants gathered on the spot.
Let us have a look at the videos first. Even though seemingly of one kind and already realised projects they are not films in the usual sense. They are the artificial and aesthetically reflected product of working deliberately over a long period of time, involving collective and participative processes, with various people interested in certain topics and willing to participate actively. The degree of participation can vary, depending on the project and on personal needs. For “Complaints Choir” and “Dreamland” e.g., Kalleinen/Kochta-Kalleinen used crowd-sourcing, meaning that they advertised their topic and collected the material the participants provided; there were complaints on the one hand, dreams on the other. Either the artists (as in the case of “Dreamland”) or the participants (as in the case of “Complaints Choir”) have their choice, transform the inputs into a script or a song and perform it. In both projects, the participation “consists” of the input or choice of the content plus the performance. Particular participants (the director of the choir, the songwriter) or the artists are responsible for the aesthetics and the realisation of the project. The parts of those not willing or inclined to play their parts in the films (most often because of the lack of time or the wish not to be mentioned by name) are taken over by professional actors. Other projects, like “People in White”, “Archipelago Science Fiction”, or “I love my Job” are dialogues. For all the differences, there is a common approach: the artists launch a public call to find participants. Then they question them, first in writing, then in a personal meeting that usually lasts for a couple of hours and is being recorded. After these meetings, Kalleinen/Kochta-Kalleinen either draft first scripts to be discussed in common, or they have workshops to elaborate possible stories and scripts together with all the participants or with the various groups having common interests. These projects are intended to be decided in a direct-democratic and anti-authoritarian way, in their realisation somehow reminding of projects like “Summerhill” in the 30s where the collaborative making up of stories and their discussion played a certain role, and, furthermore, the anti-psychiatry-movement of the 70s of the past century. The artists are but hosts or moderators, initiating or summarising discussions or topics.
Theme plus variations It seems logical that this dialogue-based production process results in a large number of possible stories; one video always presents more than one story or one version. Each “work”, thus in the end is a heterogeneous mixture of many stories and variations: While the installation “I love my Job” consists of eight case studies from Helsinki or Goteborg, four different visions of a possible future are presented in “Archipelago Science Fiction”; the longer videos like “The Making of Utopias”, “Dreamland”, or even “People in White”, a full length movie, are based on varying scenarios mirroring the different or individual views and experiences of the participants. In most of them, repetition or variation (similarity) play an important role. The repetition of the theme or topic, the repetition of the situation described, of the emotion that can be experienced or of the structure of the film shows that, for all the individuality and given certain circumstances, particular hierarchical structures, or experiences of power or lack of power, or anxiety or desire can repeat themselves. To render them visible and have the viewer experience them is an essential aim of these repetitions. The variability and openness of the films not only represent the result of individual perspectives, they are at the same time the result of a collective, many-voiced process also aesthetically defying any all-encompassing we-identity or simple representation. It is what Gilles Deleuze, quoting Félix Guattari, describes the following way: “A good group meets the criterion that it does not imagine itself to be singular, immortal, or significant like a syndicate of defence or security, like a ministry (department) of war veterans but that relates to an audience confronting it with its possibilities of non-sense, of death, or of breaking up, especially because of its openness towards other groups. The individual itself is such a group.” In other words: even though moments of solidarity and community are one of the aims of these projects, they take a stand for a form of singularity meaning more as well as less than the somehow trivial word “individual” might suggest. This “singularity” is possible only at certain times, in certain places, involving specific actors, according to the situation and not easily repeated. The display of this exhibition, too, stresses the eventfulness of these moments of presence or absence. The scenography tries to emphasise that by e.g. showing the eight episodes of “I love my Job” on eight different screens but the viewer still can watch only one ‘case’ at a time. The other screens are black, only giving the title of the film not shown. “Archipelago Science Fiction”, which consists of four installations, too, does not show all visions of the future at one time; one scenario follows the other, on only one monitor. The other monitors remain empty: a continuum of time, by the continuous row of monitors turned into one of space suggesting clarity and a linear order and, at the same time, subverting it. Thus, space itself generates moments of absence and emptiness (that much space, and very little happening), but also moments of the unforeseeable and erratic: You can never be sure where the next film will start, you will always miss a couple of seconds of the beginning, you will never have seen it all. Our moving around the room to see the films becomes a symbolic crossing of spaces and times and abysses with almost nothing happening in them.
Between Therapy and Art No matter what the subject is, telling and acting out stories is of importance. This might remind of therapeutical processes based on the thinking that talking about problematic or traumatic situation is a first step to realising that there is something fundamentally wrong and that it needs counteracting. The option of participating or making a film can make people feel that their problem – no matter how trivial or how traumatic it may be – is deemed serious and of importance, and at the same time, the playful and artistic treatment might turn it into a definable subject they can deal with, for themselves and toward others. The aim of making a movie, thus, is not only to produce an aesthetic, autonomous work of art but to give the participants a confined, manageable, and attainable aim. In an informal service society like ours today the products of which become less and less tangible, that only moves around dates or has papers written, this aspect of “creating” something tangible is of the utmost importance: the experience of success, of pride, of satisfaction that an aim has been attained that by working together one can achieve things one could not achieve on one’s own lead to essential emotions of happiness or content; emotions that, of course, are the precondition for experiencing oneself as a decision-making and responsible individual. The “work of art”, i.e. the film, in this case, too, is a means to deal dialogically with oneself and with others, as far as one is, as Deleuze says, a group oneself. The work being the aim allows to reflect forms, or the transformation of (amorphous) emotions and states into formal relations and/or visible objects. In my eyes, this meets the deeply human desire to transcend oneself, to transform what is one’s own into something different, something artificial, something that’s given “form”. That the artists are more interested on what kind of form it gets than the participants does not betray the idea of participation. On the opposite, it takes into account that people are different, have diverse interests and motivations. And it, finally, guarantees that the amateur level (which is important as a starting point) can be surpassed with regard to the aesthetics and the professional transformation of expression. This means, that by going beyond its original context a project can become of artistic interest again. (This being a reference to the social art of the 1990s and the blame that it lacked aesthetics.) The artists not only keep that in mind but also the already mentioned human desire for aesthetics as well as an artificial transformation of one’s own life, regardless of the discourse on distinction or of good taste. This desire has been taken up by TV reality shows and perverted in the sense that they do not allow for any possibility of abstraction. The projects presented in this exhibition try to regain this transcendent meaning or give it back to this desire for transformation.
I play well enough Games and playing or acting out as one way of opening up different ways is the central concept of the other “forms of participation” presented in the exhibition, too, i.e. the performance group JOKAklubi and YKON. While the YKON game initially above all tried to find new formats for meetings and conferences to make people talk to each other – or act – in unconventional ways, JOKAklubi focuses on the concept of the show and tries to subvert competitive structures. All have in common that acting out can lead to moments of self-forgetfulness and communality surpassing the individualistic capitalistic concept of efficiency and the primacy of (apparent) reason. By revealing other (‘dark’ as well as ‘bright’) sides of the human being through performing – or transforming them – the participants represent something our post-modern society usually neglects, even though everything seems to be exhibited by the media or intellectually discussed nowadays. The non-hierarchical experimental design giving equal value to every design, as carried out by all three groups, foster the essential feeling that is central to one’s own understanding of being an acting individual: I’m good enough, even if I am only “OFF” and not “ON” (as JOKAklubi puts it).
Let us summarise: Even if each of the projects presented here is characterised by a different form of interaction and participation, and even if none of the projects shows an “easy going” world, there is this common concept of humour and some sort of absurd, surrealistic hilarity: wit and easiness as survival strategies. They empower us to perceive and experience gridlock systems differently so that we may better meet the challenges of reality.
only in german
Forms of participation:
Tellervo Kalleinen/ Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen, JOKAklubi and YKON
Kuratorin: Yvonne Volkart
Künstler: Tellervo Kalleinen / Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen, JOKAklubi (Niina Lehtonen-Braun, Mirka Raito, Tellervo Kalleinen), YKON (Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen, Ulu Braun, Christina Kral, Tellervo Kalleinen, Tomas Träskman, Pekko Koskinen)