In her first solo presentation at NON, Annika Eriksson continued her observations of life within and against the rapid transformation of urban spaces under neoliberalism. Wir bleiben / The Last Tenants (2011), a four-channel video installation with a narrative soundtrack, portrays the last remaining tenants in a building in the middle of Berlin where the artist once lived. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the neighbourhood’s rapid commercialization and the resulting increase in rent has forced the building’s inhabitants to relocate. The subjects of Eriksson’s work, however, have resolved to remain where they are. In the central screen of the installation, one of the tenants, Oliver, appearing like an exhausted flâneur, explains how rapidly the area changed around him. Gentrification, it seems now, is a process that cannot be contested. The only way an individual can resist these changes is by doing nothing at all.
As Oliver and the other tenants loiter in the apartment, sharing their stories of the neighbourhood’s transformation, various meditative scenes of the building’s interior and exterior played on the surrounding screens. A looped shot of the façade shows what appears to be a bed sheet hanging out the window, with the words ‘WIR BLEIBEN’ (we’re staying) scrawled in red paint across the fabric – literally and desperately occupying that presumed border between public and private space. Flags or wall paintings with these words are increasingly scarce in Berlin as resistance to gentrification is beginning to seem nostalgic, but when Eriksson asked the last tenants if she could hang the banner outside their window, they were more than happy to oblige. The artist’s action, however, does not come across as a petty redeployment of a trope from the 1990s for its own sake; rather, the desperate and impromptu handling of the banner points to an awareness of its anachronism coupled with the desire to understand what this temporal spasm might suggest.
Eriksson’s interest in claims to political resistance through passivity was also taken up in Wir sind wieder da (We’re Back, 2011), a video showing a group of punks hanging out in an empty lot in Berlin. The large scale of the video projection created a one-to-one relationship between the viewers in the gallery space and the punks smoking and drinking as their dogs bark and run around this non-site. Yet, even as their presence is amplified, a resolute distance is maintained; the punks turn their backs to Eriksson’s camera, acting as if they are not being filmed at all. The video operates as a portrait that has refused itself, but it is also a temporal extension of an autonomous space claimed by the tenuous act of fighting acquiescence with passive aggression.
As a looped video, Eriksson’s work implies that the punks will always be there, in the sense that their occupation contains no terms for its abatement; but also in the sense that their actions will never amount to any change. On the one hand, this infinitely extends the moment of potentiality, but on the other, it traps the gesture in a hermetic loop that sustains itself on its own amnesia –soon forgetting where it started or how it might amount to anything but an impotentdisplay of opposition. And it is this tension between the two implications of indefiniteoccupation of space and time – the being-eternal and the melancholia of timelessness – that mark Eriksson’s project as especially apposite within the context of social activism today, but also, more specifically, within the rapidly changing urban environment of Istanbul.