At the heart of Sigrid Viir’s solo exhibition are blurred boundaries between work and vacation. The name of the exhibition comes from the Roland Barthes essay The Writer on Holiday (1954), in which he looked at writers as the bourgeoisie might see them – as false workers, who by the same token can only be false holiday-makers as well, who can be spotted reading a book even when they’re lazing on the beach. In the knowledge-based economy, the borders between work and leisure time have become more complicated, creativity has become an integral part of more than just the cultural field, and it takes a concerted effort to disengage even for a moment from one’s professional or working life. No one dares put down that book anymore.
Contemporary work culture requires people to be on call at all times, and if they have any free time, they should be doing something useful with it, like bettering their education. And so, even though we might not notice it, our free time is spent on working, looking for work, getting ready to do work, thinking and worrying about work. The borders between work and leisure are also blurred by the fact that the interior design of offices has become increasingly comfortable and pleasant and that home offices have become widespread. Cooler atmosphere is further supported by new playful job titles – the exhibition’s team also practiced that as you can see –, but is that kind of freedom empowering for the worker or just an illusion?
Taking a vacation has become a challenge in its own right – for self-employed people, it’s hard to create space between different projects and often there’s no one to delegate work to. Or there’s a feeling creeping down the nape of the holiday-maker’s neck, that if they don’t keep their hand on the pulse so to say, they might be left by the wayside – because taking a break is surely for the weak. Moreover, holidaying and leisure time has become a huge industry, which offers quick relief through consumption of goods and services. Whoever dies with most toys wins, and a few visits to tourism hotspots can’t hurt either!
False Vacationer is a voyage through the entirety of EKKM, starting from the external facade of the building and leading through the three storeys inside, posing questions about attitudes, habits and insecurities common these days in the holiday and work culture. As an extra layer the viewer can choose whether they come to the exhibition in work or holiday mode and that choice determines the experience they will have through the building, accompanied by an audio guide, scripted by Laur Kaunissaare. Somewhere in the building one can also find a fairy-tale about vacation, written by Maarja Kangro. What would happen when one challenges the current cult of work, when one decides to work less? What would our society gain with establishing the Universal Basic Income? Maybe sleep is the last means of resistance to the production-consumption carousel?
April 27 – June 16, 2019
Creative Ninja: Sigrid Viir
Travel Companion: Maarin Mürk
Conductor of Alphabets: Koit Randmäe
Guru of Here and There: Laur Kaunissaare
Ambassador of Conscientious Soothing: Maarja Kangro
Supported by: Cultural Endowment of Estonia, Estonian Artists’ Association, Estonian Society of Art Historians and Curators, Estonian Ministry of Culture, Caparol, Helsinki International Artist Programme HIAP.
Photography: Paul Kuimet / EKKM