The Olympic Latin motto Citius, Altius, Fortius (‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’) could just as well be a maxim for the growth ideal of contemporary society, with its idealisation of efficiency, performance and adaptability.
Whilst this ideal may have generated economic prosperity for some, the costs are obvious: a culture of exhaustion and the depletion of resources globally, plus a working culture where people suffer from stress, depression and deteriorating quality of life. In her first major solo exhibition in Denmark, artist Hannah Anbert turns a sculptural and playful yet critical gaze on these discordant societal developments.
An interest in the meaning and production conditions of contemporary working life is a central theme of Anbert’s art practice. In performances, sculptures, textiles and installations she has previously addressed the way work has replaced religion as the principal pillar of society, in part as source of meaning and identity in human existence, and in part as a moral duty to be fulfilled in order to have a role in society. In Slower and Cheaper Anbert continues her investigation of these developments and presents a series of alternative views of efficiency, production, and the concept of work.
In the works in the exhibition the artist juxtaposes familiar materials and objects from the corporate sector, staging them in absurd situations that play out between work and recreation. One work, for example, consists of two office chairs that are so high they are impossible to reach. The chairs are placed in sand, an ambiguous reference to both beach and desert. The work thus represents an ironic take on the daily endurance test office workers are subject to, but also on the craving to climb the office hierarchy: it might get you up there, but it can also make it difficult to climb down again. Another work addresses the way allegedly recreational activities are instrumentalised in the logic of productivity, making it possible for us to return to the workplace with renewed vitality and vigour. Here the concept of taking a walk has been reduced to the absolute minimum: a circle of grass efficiently optimising its beneficial effects.
Through these critical and humorous interventions Hannah Anbert turns the concepts of contemporary working culture upside down to probe the possibility of a new and different system of values, asking whether there are other paths to the good life than those paved with optimisation, overtime and over-consumption. Instead, the unproductive, slow and cheap might offer the possibility of a valuable alternative to a system that with its perpetual mining of human and natural resources is putting pressure on people and the ecosystem alike.
Hannah Anbert (b. 1984) graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 2016, the same year she was awarded the prestigious Start Point Prize. She has exhibited in Denmark and abroad at GL STRAND and Kunsthal Charlottenborg in Copenhagen, Kunsthal Nord in Aalborg, Arti et Amicitiae in Amsterdam, and Prague National Gallery. From 2 June this year her works are exhibited at Riga International Biennale of Contemporary Art.
Untitled, 2018. Steel, wood, wool, foam blocks, buckets, chewing gum