Annika Eriksson

Annika Eriksson’s exhibition here in 1996 comprised a single film projection, Stockholm Postmen’s Orchestra. Footage showed an amateur band playing away merrily, the musicians all postal workers who had assembled in the gallery at the artist’s request to play just as they normally would after working hours. The point at which Eriksson’s own work crossed with the postal workers’ instrumental enterprise was located in the fact that, in accordance with her wishes, the orchestra performed a current pop hit, Portishead’s “Sour Times”—presumably a departure from their regular repertoire.

Eriksson’s most recent exhibition, The Construction, 2000, gave the impression, at first, that the artist couldn’t quire get everything ready in time for the opening. Cluttered to the bursting point with a skeletal timber construction, a building project made of rough, untreated planks and chipboard, the gallery seemed to be humming with the activity of construction work. Rhythmical sounds of hammering and sawing were every now and then drowned by powerful, pulsating music churned out by what sounded like a transistor radio somewhere in the rear of the room. Looking behind the wooden construction’s facade, however, made it clear that the activity one heard was in fact finished—but recorded and preserved in the form of three and a half hours of real-time documentary footage projected onto a wooden screen erected inside the set; rough wooden benches were provided for spectators.

The piece extends Eriksson’s interest in those social pacts that bring people together and the creativity to which, by acting concertedly, people give expression, though now the focus has shifted from leisure to work. The artist’s fragmentary sketch of the construction was turned over to three hired carpenters who, once on site, had to give it concrete interpretation and solve problems as they arose while the camera whirred. So, as in Eriksson’s previous collaborative venture, the individuals portrayed are given an important say in the work’s development, since their skills and judgment affect the work’s realization. At the same time, the artist assumes the passive role of a voyeur, out of the picture, watching the work being executed from behind the camera.

Eriksson knows exactly how to deploy spectator expectations to raise questions about what constitutes an experience and how it subsequently gets distilled into what we then redenominate an artwork. The way in which she consistently focuses on the process through which the work emerges gives an indication of how little interest she has, fundamentally, in the finished result; it is given the function of a monument commemorating the labor already done. The Construction induces a curious sense of vacuum, of being the spectator to an equation that can’t be solved. What does the work show? Nothing at all in a conventional sense. The Construction operates in terms of temporal and social relations rather than spatial ones, despite the fact that it annexes the latter in a distinctly concrete fashion. Constituting a remarkable comment on, and successor to, a work like Robert Morris’s Box with the Sound of Its Own Making, 1961, it figures as a fraud sculpture, as a sort of Potemkin village, but one that constantly fails to disguise the artist’s sincere intention.

Mats Stjernstedt

Translated from Swedish by James Manley.