Pilvi Takala : Breaching Experiments, Site Gallery, Sheffield

Breaching Experiments is the new exhibition by Finish artist Pilvi Takala at Site Gallery. Over the past decade Takala has developed a critical body of singular performance pieces, unpicking those conventions created within micro-social environments. Breaching Experiments brings together several of Takala’s recent film based works as well as two performances to take place during the exhibition. Her films are often filmed covertly, capturing and observing or in some cases re-enacting seemingly bizarre social situations. Awkward, provoking, uncompromising and at times unbearably embarrassing, Takala exposes the unspoken rules of society and draws intrinsic conditions to the surface.

The exhibition features The Trainee (video installation). Takala took up a marketing trainee post at Deloitte’s HQ in Helsinki and documented the increasing social anxiety she provoked in her colleagues by her seemingly odd behaviour. She spends an entire day in the lift, silently sits still at her desk ‘thinking’, she appears to be doing nothing. Her non-compliance reveals deeply embedded normalizing values held by the staff who quickly isolate and exclude the trainee.

Another film absurdly sees Takala dressed as the Real Snow White, documenting her polite perplexity as she is refused entry to Disney Land Paris where visitors (children) are actively encouraged to don their favourite character’s costume.

Equally uncomfortable to watch is Wallflower, which documents Takala dressed in an extravagant ball dress at a local tourist tea-dance. She sits in the corner, hoping to be asked to dance but none of the other dancers – older couples dancing together – can break their convention and leave their own partner alone to dance with a strange young woman.

Creating new rules of societies, Players introduces a group of online poker players from Europe and the US who have chosen to live in Bangkok. Away from their homeland they create their own societal rules based on the probability theories they depend on for their living. A theme of money runs through many of Takala’s works and here the gamblers describe their collective ‘abuse’ of money deliberately buying extravagant valueless items for fun.

Takala’s underlying fascination of money is explored further in Bag Lady. She is watched suspiciously as she takes a transparent plastic bag filled with wads of cash to buy small items in a Berlin shopping centre – she is the perfect customer but is doing something totally wrong.

Inviting the viewer to participate in a performance, Lost Pigeons, was developed in Ghent, where Takala became fascinated with the local community of pigeon fanciers and the fact that all of the pigeons on our urban streets are either lost racing pigeons or their descendents. Takala’s project is a series of posters and sound work offering insight into economy of the pigeon sport. 100 posters, each showing a different lost pigeon, and a phone number to call, connects the visitor to the sound work – a conversation between the artist and a local pigeon-fancier.

Breaching Experiments, Pilvi Takala, 14 September until 10 November, Site Gallery, 1 Brown Street, Sheffield S1 2BS. www.sitegallery.org

Credits: Pilvi Takala, still from Players, 2010, Courtesy Site Gallery.