My favourite moment at the LOOP festival lasted exactly 47 minutes. I was sitting on the cold floor of one of Barcelona’s most extraordinary landmarks, drinking orange juice and watching DOLLS, a video by Annika Larsson (extracts).
DOLLS explores forms of control or the codes and expressions of power, submission and violence. Five men are evolving in an almost blank space, performing excruciatingly banal tasks or just waiting to be served. The men don’t seem to have any further meaning or purpose than to their fulfill routine tasks: pouring coffee in a cup or going from point A to point B in order to serve a piece of white bread with butter on a small white plate. These actions are so pedestrian, measured and dull, one would expect robots rather than human to perform them. But what will happen when we all have robots at home that perform menial tasks for us? Won’t we find it desirable and exotic after some time to prepare coffee ourselves once in a while?
As the five men are evolving inside the highly abstract space, they obey rules that escape us, they crush objects in close-up with crampon mountain shoes, glide over the floor on their ice skates and their eyes never ever betray emotion.
The careful framing, cold colours, close-ups, slow-motions and Sean McBride’s music further contribute to the derealizing effect.
The three-part video takes place in an uncomfortably closed space, a location that would evoke a contemporary art “white cube” would it not be for the coloured markings and geometrical symbols carefully placed on the walls and ground. Is it a playground that could come straight out of a scene from Mon Oncle? Is it a video game set? Both? Or is it rather a Suprematism painting stirred into motion? The signs on the floor and walls are actually similar to the ones used to teach humanoid robots how to find their way and execute some tasks in a given space.
A gentleman sitting on the floor right next to me at the opening had some really interesting shoes
DOLLS was screened inside the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion and I can’t imagine a more suitable place than the pavilion to show Larsson’s video. They have the same geometrical architecture and coldish beauty.
Annika Larsson, DOG, 2001.
Annika Larsson, POLIISI, 2001.
I was surprised to discover that Annika Larsson is generously making some of her work available online. As far as i could have observed, not many video artists are ready to share their work on youtube or vimeo. I had the opportunity to meet the video artist in Barcelona and asked why she didn’t restrict her video screening to the strict perimeters of a brick and mortar art gallery. She told me that first of all, watching a video on a laptop screen at home is a very different experience than the one that would see you dress up, go to an art gallery and experience in a space that the gallery has dedicated to it, with the sound played at the right intensity and quality.
Larsson isn’t afraid that the online distribution would enable other people to take undue inspiration in her work, “being an artist has always been about copying and stealing anyway,” she explained.
She even shot PIRATE, a short film using images taken during a demonstration by the Swedish anti-copyright movement (Piratbyrån and the Swedish Pirate Party) in Stockholm. I’m going to bow goodbye and leave you with the film: