PLEASE RELAX NOW
Vika Kirchenbauer, single-channel video, 2014
video still from PLEASE RELAX NOW
On screen the artist introduces herself, addressing the spectator directly and seeking their trust. Haunting and seductive in a televisual or billboard-like sense, she asks the spectator to lean back and relax, promising that she – the artist – will orchestrate a memorable event that will transform the spectator into an integral part of the art piece – or make them even become the art piece!
Turning off the screen for comforting darkness and intimacy she continues to talk to the spectator in a soft voice, demanding them to start touching their genitals in promise of the ultimate experience: masturbation inside an exhibition or cinema space.
Operating on several levels of sensorial consciousness, a limitless image is created; one that spills outside of itself and challenges the gendered sexual taxonomy of the spectator. By foregrounding an ambiguous tension inherent in the artist’s own body and voice, the spectators will find themselves asking: "Am I aroused because of me or because of you? Because of what I imagine you have not or because I cannot imagine what you have?"
The artist keeps provoking the spectators with sexy language before they are guided towards the "orgasm-as-event". The piece ends with the artist exclaiming in full excitement "And now: exhibit yourself to the others!" as the screen turns white and fills the space with light.
PLEASE RELAX NOW uses the screen as a source of light and darkness drawing attention to the issue of art consumption as individual vs. collective experience and extending the video piece into physical space. Motivational language is interwoven with metaphysical gestures of salvation characteristic of economics as well as of what is considered "Political Art."
The piece examines the overlap of current developments in performance art, art display, economics, marketing and the participatory nightmare of life and work as theatre. The striking similarities between Experience Economy – the rendering of memory as a source of profit - and the eventisation of art are deconstructed and ironically reassembled in an artwork made possible only through the social element of spectatorship as a form of immaterial and affective labour.
Utilising the misconception of art’s mythical otherness, PLEASE RELAX NOW commodifies experiences in an allegory on post-fordist capitalism in which every interaction is recaptured and turned into profit.
Current misunderstandings such as "active spectatorship" and "participatory culture" are euphemised in a deluding subjectivity of the spectator that finds itself stuck in a cycle of self-consume.
Staging a darkroom as a promise of intensity and using transgression in its sexual and economic sense, the art space is portrayed as a transformation business.
By addressing the spectator as a passive consumer, collaborator, client, spiritual follower, raw material and immaterial worker, the piece questions the capacities of art as a social and political field within ever-evolving capitalism.