Pilvi Takala's 2008 short film, "The Trainee"

Still from Pilvi Takala's film "The Trainee"
Right at this moment, a few days earlier than usual, I'm writing Sunday's address because on Saturday (my usual day for doing this) the church is open as part of the excellent Open Cambridge initiative and, naturally, I both need and want to be around for that and not stuck in splendid isolation in my "ivory office"!

Anyway, that means I've had to choose the basic theme of the address and the associated readings well ahead of Sunday — never something I find easy to do. Now, I'm not going to publish here what I intend to say (not least of all because I haven't quite finished writing it) but, because one of the readings cites a powerful and extraordinary short film by Pilvi Takala, I thought I'd post a link to it now so folk who are interested could take a look at it before Sunday.

The reading is taken from Franco “Bifo” Berardi's most recent book “And: Phenomenology of the End” (MIT Press, 2016, pp. 51-52)

Throughout the late modern age, artists have been the harbingers of precariousness, which they internalized into an aesthetic of uncertainty, randomness, and excess. But in the first decade of the new century precariousness became a social condition, pervading the labour market and the workers’ perception of themselves.
      Precarious art is an attempt to mitigate social pain and political impotence with a kind of dystopian irony.
     At the Exhibition of Visual Art of Limerick 2012, I saw The Trainee, a distressing work by the Finnish artist Pilvi Takala produced in collaboration with Deloitte, a global network of consulting firms, and the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art. To realize the work, the artist spent a month as a trainee in the marketing department of Deloitte, where only few people knew the true nature of her project. She began as a seemingly a seemingly normal marketing trainee, but eventually she starts to engage in peculiar working methods. For example, at times, she would sit doing nothing all day at her workstation in the consultants’ open plan office space, or in the tax department library. One video shows her spending an entire day in an elevator. These acts, or rather her absence of visible action slowly make the atmosphere around the trainee unbearable, and force her colleagues to search for solutions and to come up with explanations for the situation. Little by little, she becomes an object of avoidance and speculation. Her colleagues start asking her embarrassing questions, half-way between sincere interest and bewildered amusement. They address inquiries to their supervisor regarding this worker and her strange behaviour. Masking laziness in apparent activity and browsing Facebook during working hours are part of the acceptable behavioural patterns of a work community. However, sitting silently, immobile in front of an empty desk, thinking, smiling and gazing at the wall threatens the peace of the community and disrupts the concentration of the other workers. The person who is not doing anything isn’t committed to any activity, so she has the potential for anything. Since non-doing lacks a place in the general order of things, it becomes a threat to order. The degrading religion of labour is exposed here together with uselessness of contemporary work.

So, now here is a link to her thirteen minute long film:

“The Trainee” by Pilvi Takala (2008)


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