Critics’ Picks

View of “Eemil Karila,” 2009.

View of “Eemil Karila,” 2009.


Eemil Karila

Invalidenstraße 115
March 5–April 11, 2009

Visitors entering “Surface Values,” Eemil Karila’s first solo exhibition in Berlin, will find white walls, a tan floor, and glaring fluorescent lights beaming down on nothing. Moments later, however, these flicker off and a set of black lights, which have been installed by the Finnish artist, switch on. The new radiance sets aglow ultraviolet inks that Karila mixed into the gallery staff’s cleaning products. After the floors were mopped, creating patterns with the wet mixture, Karila laminated the floor in order to preserve what he has called a collaborative work. After the show closes, the swirls will remain in the gallery, waiting for a time when they will be summoned to reappear again under black lights.

In the process of developing the project, Karila learned that the woman who usually cleans the gallery’s floors was previously a nurse in Ukraine. She did not want her name to be listed in any press materials because she did not want her current occupation to be revealed to her family. But by including her story in the project, “Surface Values” reveals a troubling story of forfeited ambitions. The black lights also reveal leftover details from previous shows. Under their glare, one can spot glue where a painting once adhered to a wall, as well as glittering golden traces of a previous installation. The evidence of other artists’ work both demonstrates Program’s lineage and provides a sense of institutional critique. Like many other buildings in Berlin, the gallery has a layered and sometimes haunting past, which Karila’s project engagingly brings to light.