Artist Pilvi Takala is known for her documentarist video art that examines social structures in various communities. Takala’s works often involve her infiltrating a community and challenging its norms through contradicting behaviour. In this way, the works reveal and question the underlying rules of human conduct.
“I use my own body as a research tool. I’m interested in what social pressure feels like,
what it takes to act against expectations and how this impacts communities,” Takala explains. “Shared behavioural models and norms are created and maintained constantly. I strive to understand how we negotiate around them in day-to-day life.”
Director of Konsthall Tornedalen Theodor Ringborg, who selected this year’s winner, praises Takala’s unique way of producing her works. She uses hidden cameras in many of her pieces, for example. According to Ringborg, the works spark questions about how the culture of being photographed and recorded inevitably affects our thinking.
“There is a great deal to learn from Takala’s work about the role of the camera as a shaper of reality, which is why a prestigious media arts award seems befitting,” Ringborg says.
In recent years, Takala’s works have garnered widespread international interest. Created in the span of nearly three years, Close Watch represented Finland at the Venice Biennial in 2022. Since then, the piece has also been displayed domestically at the Espoo Museum of Modern Art EMMA. Close Watch is currently on display at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Zürich.
“To me, the AVEK Award is a much-appreciated acknowledgement of my work so far,” Takala, who lives and works in Berlin and Helsinki, says of the award.
The €15,000 AVEK Award is granted annually in recognition of creative work. Takala says that the award money will be very helpful.
“I’ve been meaning to hire someone for a while, but I haven’t had the opportunity before. Now I can free up some time for artistic work,” Takala says.
Well-known Takala works include If Your Heart Wants It (remix) (2020), The Stroker (2018), Real Snow White (2009) and The Trainee (2008). Her works have been up at the Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art in London (2023), the Centre Pompidou in Paris (2015) and the PS1 Contemporary Art Centre, which operates as part of MoMa in New York (2014). This year, Takala’s works can be seen at the Cuenca Biennial, which will open in December in Ecuador.
Uncomfortable situations reveal social structures
Takala got her master’s degree in Visual Arts in 2006 from the University of the Arts’ Academy of Fine Arts, and she has also studied environmental art at the Glasgow School of Art. Takala has previously received the Dutch Prix de Rome award in 2011 and the Emdash Award and State Award for Visual Arts in 2013.
In her works, Takala studies various communities by infiltrating them and often causing awkward situations. The video piece The Trainee involves Takala working as a trainee at a consulting firm where she decides to focus on cerebral work by sitting at her station without doing anything. The unabashed idleness challenges the norm of productivity, and the reactions of the colleagues reveal unwritten rules of the workplace and set in motion conversations about those rules.
For Close Watch, Takala obtained a security guard’s qualification. She worked for the security company Securitas for more than six months with the aim of gaining a better understanding of a security guard’s work. By becoming a part of the security guard community, Takala was able to address the problematic structures related to the work, such as racism and the use of force.
Takala’s If your heart wants it (remix) available online
Some of Takala’s works can be freely viewed on her own website. For example, If your heart wants it (remix), completed in 2020, focuses on the annual startup event Slush in Helsinki. Together with a research team and camera crew, Takala infiltrates the event’s participant community and explores how individuals deal with the constant pressure to be positive and social. The work is a shortened version, compiled from footage shot in 2018.
The AVEK Award of the AVEK Audiovisual Centre is an annual accolade for creative work. The award, worth €15,000, can be granted to a creator or group that works in media arts or other audiovisual culture. This year marks the 20th time that the award was granted. The winner was chosen by Director of Konsthall Tornedalen Theodor Ringborg.
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