8. Juni 2006, 19.30

Helsinki Shipyard | Port San Juan // Laura Horelli // 2003 // 2 x 14'

Laura Horelli's two-channel video explores Finland's cruise ship industry by following a boat's production from the warehouses of Helsinki to a port of call in San Juan. The structure of Horelli's video develops according to the logic of the boat building process from the point of view of the workers who create the foundations to the managers who oversee the ship's completion. The present day tourism industry has made the manufacture of ships exemplary of the more monumental practices of city building. Horelli emphasizes that the very strategies of this expanding global industry transform spaces of leisure and freedom into illusory realities that are highly centralized, organized, and programmed.


Excerpts from:
The Shrink-Wrapped Documentary. Laura Horelli’s Demystification of the Socially Engaged Work of Art
Marta Kuzma

complicating the mechanisms of her investigation, co-opting the strategies of production techniques implicit to the documentary in the utilization of video for documenting empirical investigation and research, Horelli effectively incriminates the documentary format, so as to subsequently criticise it from within. She does so by making visible the technical aspects of its construction. This laying out of the evidence, so to speak, of the film’s skeletal structure characterizes the way in which Horelli dismantles the stranglehold that the documentary claims to have on formulaic truth. Drawing from the conceptual traditions of video production, in which dialogue serves as a guiding force to help decode the work – Horelli references the category of video and filmmaking referred to as the ‘new talkie’, which emerged in the 1970s in a shift away from structural film, as a means of reintroducing narrative without the necessary conditions for producing the effects of quality or ‘good’ filmmaking, as defined by medium-specific film theory and practice at the time.2 These films attempted to decode and decipher, while attending to social content with relation to figuration so as to convey the experience of an emerging global capitalist modernity. Horelli extends this category by responding to the more complex distributional logic of global modernity with spatial implications that correlate to concepts around ‘non-place’ and the space of art, to constitute what Manual Castells refers to as the “space of flows.” Her films also respond to the diversified and networked media machinery centred on crafting the appearance of the real in the configuration of the sensible, just, communal, and democratic. Within these scripted notions of the real, the artist aspires, as Lucy Lippard wrote in The Dematerialization of Art, “to find the means of expression so that the idea is immediately apparent to the spectator and to reduce the work to a simple equation.” Reducing the video work to its mere scaffolding, Horelli reveals the filters employed to allude to ideological pragmatism that provide for the appearance of social justice and economic efficiency.

Filmmakers such as Haroun Farocki have clearly played an important role in shaping Horelli’s process in challenging the dynamics implicit to the documentary. Farocki’s Videograms of a Revolution (1992), for example, in addition to many other works, illustrates how it is possible through the making visible of editing techniques in a purposeful unveiling through the film’s unfolding, to emphasize that what the viewer is watching is merely a medium of appearances. The binary ability to hold the viewer’s attention both at the conscious and unconscious level, engaging attention at the level of the ‘story’ while integrating an awareness of the film’s skeletal structure, and rerouting the viewer’s attention from content back onto the technical aspects of how a particular scene is constructed – this serves as a key for Horelli, who is interested in questions of production.

Questions of production are not routed through a technical investigation alone, but are explored by Horelli in relation to capitalist production specifically against the background and cultural specificity of the Scandinavian model of the social welfare state and its dynamics within a global economy. In this type of analysis, the artist locates raw materials in the form of institutional records, archival images, the products of labour, training methods, and empirical investigations, to explore how models are created, input and maintained, and their incongruity in relation to present-day conditions. Postwar formulations of the Scandinavian model, for example, linked to the security provided by comprehensive welfare benefits, a commitment to a mixed economy, and the presence of a strong state in constructing the notion of a ‘good’ society have permutated via the internationalism of capital in the 1970s, prefiguring a mass-media campaign in the 1990s to maintain the appearance of the former programmatic commitment, which had previously been fuelled by activism.

Horelli draws from socio-economic realities to indicate the displacement of activism in promoting the socialist agenda with the media’s construction of appearance of its presence. In abstracting from this experience, the artist locates an elemental lapse in the enchainment of cause and effect. Her video productions often centre on target-less productivity or on the sense that an individual, be they a labourer, private individual, or researcher, is not necessarily in charge of their own destiny, but is subject to the authority of the aggregate of the state, industry or institution. This is explored in Helsinki Shipyard/Port San Juan (2002-3), a work in which the artist refrains from linear narrative so as to impart knowledge about the construction in Finland of the world’s largest cruise ship, centering on its production, assemblage, design, and spatial implications. Oral accounts provided by the company’s assemblers, metal workers, managers, and designers convey how the cruise ship has evolved into what one labourer describes as “a floating city that functions as a city although without a parliament.” Horelli alternates between shots of the ship’s monumental construction and worker commentary to convey, indeed, the way the cruise-ship industry is synonymous with a kind of mysterious phenomenon that extends beyond human control – in what is perhaps an unintended Marxian interpretation of its structure as being symptomatic of some mysterious enigmatic thing in which the “worker appears in the form of the product as a fixed immobile characteristic.” Presented as a system of coordinates rather than a story, the video serves to venture into the spatial logic of global modernity itself, ever increasing and unconfined in its scale, vectored and unlimited in its development. Despite the obvious metaphor of the ship for mobility and its implications of non-place, Horelli once again relates back to the particular.

In incriminating the documentary format, Horelli imparts a tone to her videos that is purposefully banal, mimicking the rational properties of the video-taped interview common to sociological study. In her productions, rationality dominates as the prevailing grid, and deviations from the intended script only serve to accentuate the subtlety of the artist’s incursion.

source: www.framework.fi




Laura Horelli
1976 born in Helsinki, lives and works in Berlin

Solo exhibitions (selection)

Reports and Diaries, Galerie Ilka Bree, Bordeaux

Galerie im Taxispalais, Innsbruck

Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin

Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin // Kluuvin Galleria, Helsinki

Artists-in-Residence, AIAV-Gallery, Yamaguchi // Raum06, Städelschule, Frankfurt

Installaatio, Kuvataideakatemian Galleria, Helsinki

Group exhibitions (selection)

Social Design - Badischer Kunstverein Karlsruhe, with Matthew Brannon,FOS

Circa Berlin, Nikolaj, Copenhagen Contemporary Art Center // Whatever happened to Social Democracy in 2052, Rooseum, Malmö // Water, Water Everywhere, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Scottsdale // Need to document, Halle für Kunst, Lüneberg // Handlungsformate, Laura Horelli / Daniel Knorr / Katya Sander, Kunstverein Göttingen, Göttingen

Berlin North - zeitgenössische Künstler aus den nordischen Ländern in Berlin, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin // Kunstbank, Berlin (with Debra Ligorio) // Emotion Eins, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt/Main and Ursula Blickle Stiftung, Kraichtal // Manifesta 5, Donostia, San Sebastian // Schrumpfende Städte/Shrinking Cities, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin // Gasag Kunstpreis. Ausstellung der Preisträger, Kunstfabrik am Flutgraben, Berlin

10. Biennial of Moving Images, Centre pour l'Image Contemporaine, Saint-Gervais, Geneva // In 2052 Malmö will not longer be Swedish, Rooseum, Malmö // Ill Communication, Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee // GPS: Global positioning system, Palais de Tokyo, Paris // Falling Angels, Greene Naftali, NY // Yael Bartana I Laura Horelli: Microcinema, Rooseum, Malmö

Germinations 13, Galeria Arsenal, Bialystok // Finlandia. New Video Work from Finland, Site Gallery, Sheffield // Puerto Rico // Biennale 02 (En Ruta), San Juan, Puerto Rico // Rent a Bench, a project in public space, organised by Jacob Fabricius, LA

Arbeit Essen Angst, Kokerei Zollverein, Essen // La Biennale di Venezia, Venice // Neue Welt, Frankfurter Kunstverein, nkfurt/Main // Frankfurter Positionen, project in public space, BHF-Bank-Stiftung, Frankfurt/Main // ARS 01, Kiasma, Helsinki

Cities on the Move, KIASMA, Helsinki