Showing in international exhibitions and film festivals, and often featuring a cast of archetypes from traditional fables, Kuikka’s work aims to deconstruct our pre-existing values surrounding notions of power, identity, and the psyche. Although her past installations have mostly focused on the surreal nature of everyday life in society, Wednesday 12 marks something of a departure in that its roots are unabashedly personal, drawing from an instance of childhood trauma. Until now, Kuikka has largely withheld the origins of her work, believing that the private revelations at its centre need not necessarily be disclosed. With Wednesday 12, however, she recasts a deeply felt, subjective herstory through the frame of a timeless narrative—the lost innocence at the core of Hänsel & Gretel. Kuikka strips the Grimms’ fairy tale down to its bones, transfiguring the allegorical witch into a paedophile.
Essentially, Wednesday 12 is a film in four parts. On entering the gallery, we encounter the first: a short, looping video projected against the back wall of a balloon-filled space. This footage establishes the narrative conceit and ushers us through the doorway, whereupon we arrive at the centrepiece of the show—the portal to the rest of the film—a large, shed-like enclosure containing an array of yoga balls, and three VR headsets. For some time now, Kuikka’s practice has been expanding in reaction to what she views as the relatively staid conservatism of much video installation art. For this exhibition, she has gone even further in her attempts to synthesize aspects of sculpture and narrative in real space and time, thereby expanding the world of the moving image into the gallery itself.
The point of view from which we experience Wednesday 12 varies with our choice of headset. Behind the eyes of Harry or Greta there is an uneasy, anxious sense of detachment, even before they encounter the Beast. The eerie ‘ping’ sounds we hear when they communicate with one another are typical of Kuikka’s aesthetic: simultaneously nostalgic and contemporary, recalling bygone cartoons and iPhone notifications. The Beast’s perspective is excruciating. ‘That’s a lot of Hubba Bubba,’ he growls, fondling Greta’s body, ‘nice and pink.’ While the children have an increasingly audible soundtrack of shivering, ambient dread, the Beast has only his predatory breathing. Kuikka presents a startling formulation of the familiar fable, but one of the most striking things is the way in which she subverts the liberating capabilities of VR to convey the anxiety of being stuck inside a body, experiencing pain, and not being able to do anything about it.
Anikó Kuikka (b.1986, Espoo, Finland) is a Los Angeles based Finnish artist. She is a graduate from the Royal Academy of Arts in London awarded with a post graduate diploma in fine arts. She graduated as Master in Fine Arts from the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki. Kuikka makes narrative moving image installations about the absurd construct of reality. Drawing from mythologies and fairytales, her characters play out archetypes and social power structures, aiming to deconstruct pre-existing values, the psyche, and identity.
Anikó Kuikka: Wednesday 12, February 28 – March 31 2019, GAO Gallery, London
More information: GAO Gallery