Annaïk Lou Pitteloud’s works are customarily spare. The Swiss artist’s engagements with Institutional Critique, critical theory and life outside the cultural sphere tend to be stripped down and reduced to basic frameworks. Art often seems a voice-off, even though Pitteloud operates from within its organism. That is not to say her works are dry, however. They can create a stage for ideas of high drama or wry comedy. Her first solo exhibition at Barbara Seiler in 2012, for example, opened with Additional Fact-Finding on Immaterial Relations (2012); three aluminium markers placed on the floor in a triangular relationship, with AA representing the artist and his/her standpoint, BB the artwork and CC the viewer: the interdependence of artist, artwork and viewer set up like a crime scene in which each participant shares potential culpability. So it is a surprise that Pitteloud’s second show with Seiler is packed full of artworks.
The exhibition White Between the Darlings presents a body of work from 2014 made up of postcards from the artist’s collection, presented in framed pairs hanging at regular intervals around two gallery spaces. There are 20 such pairs, all postcards of artworks, the majority bought in museum gift shops. In a return to familiar Pitteloud territory, reading the work list is an integral part of the experience as the full title of each work consists of the series (and exhibition) title, a subtitle and a transcription of all the text printed on the back of the card. The pairings form a personal, unsystematic index that draws comparisons between different reproductions of the same work, works that inspire others and thematically linked pieces. White Between the Darlings [Luxury Problem]… for example, consists of images of Meret Oppenheim’s famous fur-covered cup and saucer in the collection of MoMA, New York, one card sold by the Kunsthaus Zürich, the other printed in Amsterdam. The same object looks grey in one and tawny in the other, and there’s also inconsistency in how the Objekt should be titled. Another combination is of a cheerful red-coated smoker by Armen Eloyan with a photograph of pitiably-young pool players smoking by Nico Vrolijk, both images linked to bars of the Joordan neighbourhood in Amsterdam. Elsewhere Jenny Holzer’s collaged commentary on shopping meets a Gerhard Merz supermarket still life.
Pitteloud illustrates the economy of museum merchandising, how its currency is absorbed into a personal economy and then, usually, redistributed. The postcard is the talisman for the great work, not equal to the original, but retaining some fetish-like qualities. A postcard enables a personal, tangible engagement with a work and, due to its function, with other people. All of these post-cards have been the private property of the artist; several of the ‘darlings’ bear signs of wear and tear. If they carried messages of intimacy these are now hidden, as Pitteloud has framed the cards and returned them to the sphere of art – and the commercial realm. It is an exercise in Institutional Critique through an act of homage to artworks, a case of having your cake and eating it. A humble and optimistic reflection that museum merchandising is not just moneymaking and brand extension but, almost despite itself, a means of sustaining the interlinking of art and life.