NON is proud to present Incremental Change, a group exhibition bringing together works by Meriç Algün Ringborg, Olof Olsson, Pilvi Takala and Erdem Taşdelen. The works presented in the exhibition explore the notion of agency in the face of external social forces and constraints, probing the limits of willful self-change via different methodologies. Through their varying approaches to this central premise, these artists either fictionalize themselves through their works, or designate other fictitious characters as objects of scrutiny and present their investigations in a factual manner; ultimately pointing to the slippery relationship between truth and fiction.
The title of the exhibition gives a nod to popular self-help literature and suggests a preference for making sustained and consistent progress toward desired goals, where attention is directed more to process than end results. In their respective projects, the artists insist on laying bare the processes that they are undergoing, while straddling the line between humour and earnestness. It is evident in their works that their attempts involve a strong sense of self-discipline, although the results of their activities may in the end prove to be futile. This potentially paradoxical attitude may suggest a naïve optimism as well as a conscious refusal to capitulate to systems of power and dictated ways of being.
Meriç Algün Ringborg’s Which No One Will Ever See (2012) is a series of works in various media, inspired by and responding to two cinematic works: The Conversation by Francis Ford Coppola and Blow-Up by Michelangelo Antonioni. In this project, Algün Ringborg focuses on the notion of surveillance as they are explored in the films, as well as the construction of reality therein. While the two protagonists of the movies are preoccupied with tracing clues and solving mysteries, Algün Ringborg turns the tables by obsessively surveilling them in the films and reconstructing their characters piece by piece. The works in Which No One Will Ever See are presented in a self-reflexive manner where the focus of the project becomes Algün Ringborg’s own arduous process of making, rather than the characters themselves.
For Reading Walser (2012), performance artist Olof Olsson will surround himself with a library of Swiss author Robert Walser’s books in German (the original language in which they were written) within a room in NON, which he will use as his office 5 days a week during regular office hours. Dressed in his usual performance attire, a black business suit that is somewhat too small, Olof will spend his time at NON trying to learn to speak German using only Walser’s books. While Olof often references various figures of modernity in his performances, his interest in Walser lies specifically in his belief that this author represents another face of modernity, one that is far less optimistic and sure of itself.
In her 2008 project The Trainee, produced in collaboration with the professional services firm Deloitte and Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Pilvi Takala takes on the role of a trainee in the marketing department of Deloitte for a month, unbeknownst to most of the firm’s employees that this is an art project. In the photographs and videos recorded during her time at the firm, Takala is seen spending hours on end doing nothing, staring blankly into space, even standing around in an elevator for an entire work day. She quickly becomes an odd character in the office environment and her behaviour is met with suspicion on the part of her temporary colleagues who begin to avoid her. The Trainee explores the possibility of resistance to and subversion of social conventions through a refusal to do anything.
Erdem Taşdelen’s New Me (2012) is a recent series of ink drawings of various objects and texts documenting a number of resolutions he has made over the last two years. The decidedly simple visual depiction he employs references childhood pedagogy, specifically through the use of a punishment given to children in elementary schools where they are told to write the same sentence over and over. The form of the sentences he repeats in the works (such as “I will not be overly critical” and “I will not make a spectacle of myself”) recall John Baldessari’s 1971 work I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art, as Taşdelen self-reflexively ponders over the possibility of willing a new self into being.