Kunsthalle Bern Presents Marianne Flotron – Work

Kunsthalle Bern presents Marianne Flotron – Work the first institutional solo exhibition of Swiss artist Marianne Flotron. The exhibition, on view 13 August–25 September 2011, will feature major recent works by the artist as well as a new video-installation, called Work, produced by Kunsthalle Bern.

Because of her interests in the interrelationship between political or economical systems and human behaviour, Marianne Flotron attempts to find the traces of manipulation, which could potentially influence this behaviour. Through therapies, trainings and self-help books, the “self” gets dramatized and fictionalized. Authenticity is lost when emotions are produced and deployed in order to improve social competence and access to the social market. Flotron’s video works tackle in a progressive and accumulative way the different strategies of the fictionalisation of the self in our post-capitalist society. That’s why recently for her subject matter the artist is interested in the conditioning of work, the workplace and the relation between work and leisure time in an increasingly neo-liberal society.

In her short 2007 video Fired, employers are given training sessions in firing their employees. The video begins with a scene of a woman employee being told that she is being fired. The bad news is played down by sophisticated language: “dismissal” becomes “mobility.” Reality and play seem indistinguishable. Originally used as a therapeutic aid for psychiatric patients, role-play applied within the corporate sector, fixes the roles rather than using them as tools for analysis, setting the tone for social behaviour—with the company’s profit and loss figures as the most important focus.

For the newly produced video-installation Work, Flotron specifically studies the relationships woven between individuals within a Dutch insurance company and their unconscious mimetic moulding into the economic goals of the company. Capitalist inscription and social subjection are achieved through advanced strategies of suggested and enforced fictionalisation of the self, implying an imperative of happiness, positive thinking and cheerfulness as an ideological hegemony. Via methods of the Theatre of the Oppressed developed by Brazilian political theatre practitioner Agusto Boal, Flotron hoped to reveal the processes of social subjection reigning in the company environment. The Theatre of the Oppressed was initially created by Boal in the 1960s in order to unmask strategies of totalitarian political regimes in Latin-America trough a range of different theatrical forms. Thanks to different techniques the (voluntary) participants to the piece—the audience becomes active—are brought to reflect their living conditions and enabled to study and resist the strategies of behaviour imposed on them.

Marianne Flotron especially wanted to use the Forum Theatre—technique in order to encourage the company employees to discuss their working conditions and possibly imagine change, to reflect collectively on the suggestions brought about by an actor and thereby become empowered to generate social action. The creation and mise-en-scène of the piece in the Dutch insurance company was organised by the artist and the Colombian actor and psychologist Hector Artistizabal, specialised in the techniques of the Theatre of the Oppressed.

In the final edit of the video-installation, we witness Artistizabal’s astonishment about the refusal to participate of the employees, and on a meta-level their refusal to imagine they might be exploited or manipulated by their employers. Interestingly the employees are allowed to organize their work-time at their personal guise, as long as the work-goals are attained, and they can dock-in their computers wherever they want in smartly designed office-spaces that look like lounges. Leisure-time and work-time get blurred and paradoxically employers see the need to discourage their employees to work too much.

In the end, the video-installation Work rather becomes the index of the Theatre of the Oppressed as an absurd foreign body within the company, testimony of the artist’s and Artistizabal’s stupefaction finding a successful system of ‘conduct of conduct’, which serves neo-liberal society at perfectum, requiring citizens to be autonomous in their ‘duty to be free’ and regulate themselves towards production.

Next to this ambitious new piece, the exhibition at Kunsthalle Bern will also feature Utopia (2006), a video work about the specific types of dialogues held in recruitment offices, the aforementioned video Fired, and the acclaimed 3-channel video-projection Psychodrama (2008), re-enacting a re-enactment technique used in psychotherapy, wherein the patients play real-lived situations.

Born in Meiringen, Switzerland in 1970, Marianne Flotron currently lives and works in Amsterdam (Netherlands). After two years of studies in history in Zurich, she continued courses at the School of Fine Arts of Geneva (Switzerland), where she earned her degree in 2001. From 2007 till 2008 she was in residence at the Rijksakademie voor Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. She won the Swiss Art Awards in 2003, 2007 and 2009. In 2008, she received the Aeschlimann Corti award from the canton of Berne.

The exhibition at Kunsthalle Bern obtained substantial support from the Mondriaan Foundation, Amsterdam and from Günther and Carola Ertle-Ketterer. The Kunsthalle wishes to thank Tweaklab Basel and the Rijksakademie Amsterdam for their additional support.

Image: Marianne Flotron

Kunsthalle Bern
Helvetiaplatz 1, CH-3005 Bern
[email protected]

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