Sigrid Viir graduated from the Department of Photography at the Estonian Academy of Arts (BA 2009) but she has also studied at the media art program at Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design in Germany (2007–2008). In 2009 s öler Prize, in 2012 she was awarded with a prize at the PULSE Art Fair and in 2012 and 2020 she received the Annual Art Award of the Estonian Cultural Endowment. Viir is one of the founding members of Visible Solutions LLC. Viir’s works belong to the collections of the Art Museum of Estonia and Carousel. She is one of the recipients of the artist salary 2021–2023.
Maarin Murky is a curator and educator, working with Viir on the first edition of "False vacationer" at the Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia in 2019. (Maarin Ektermann, 2021)
Creative Ninja Sigrid Viir and her Travel Companion Maarin Murky were sitting in an empty pool and inspecting their surroundings.
MM: The false vacationer... our first meeting happened via Roland Barthes' essay "The writer on holiday" (1954), where he looks at writers as people who in the eyes of the bourgeoisie are false workers and can therefore only be false vacationers, who can be found reading books even on summer holidays at the beach. Barthes observed this almost 70 years ago, but how do we recognize this false vacationer today?
SV: False vacationer is someone, who works a lot and thus cannot really take time off, however, others see them as someone, who never works and only ever rests! For Barthes, this relates to certain professions, to creative lifestyle, but I feel by today, we have all reached that point. It is just that for some people, the job they do is not their calling but they nevertheless work in the rhythm of false vacationers. Work has become all-encompassing.
MM: Having researched the themes of work and vacationing in today’s world for a number of years, what have you learned so far? I always try to schedule "free time" in-between work and leisure and use it to run errands, maintaining important relationships etc. Leisure time should be the time, when I am not useful to anyone and I only do things I personally enjoy.
SV: I try to more consciously notice these borderline situations and be aware when I am working – and make time for myself to step away from it. In our culture, the first thing children get asked is “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. My parents never taught me to rest, perhaps they did not know how to rest either – resting is often associated with being lazy.
MM: Especially, when we think about the word "vacation", it seems almost tainted by the tourist industry – in order to have a proper vacation, you need to travel, visit certain cultural landmarks and find a beach by a bright blue sea etc. At the same time, it is exhausting to be a tourist, this type of vacationing often causes anxiety, as you feel the pressure to make the most of your time. The countless tourist attractions that have produced nearly identical photos on the hard drives of millions of people have here converged into a single endless Corinthian column. And it is not rare that people need a vacation from their vacation!
SV: Going on a vacation, leaving often also feels like a radical and tactless move – how can I go away and do nothing, while others keep working! In this space we also have a seed pack of forget-me-nots – do not forget me, I will be back! Although even if you have seemingly freed yourself, the habit of replying to work e-mails still has a hold on you.
MM: The contemporary work culture actually does require people to be available at all times and it is expected that even if they do have free time, they will do something useful instead of just lounging around. And so, without anyone noticing, our free time is spent on work preparations, looking for work, thinking of work and worrying about it. The series of photographs "Office sweet home" touches upon the blurry areas of offices becoming increasingly cosy and the prevalence of home offices, which makes it is easy to forget to stop working. During the corona pandemic, working remotely became a reality to many people but are we now better off because of it or, on the contrary, fallen even deeper into the trap?
SV: Work has definitely invaded our personal space more than ever, it is easy to take your laptop even to bed – although sleeping should be the last stronghold of resistance against constant production and the merry-go-round of consumption. And companies can cut their office costs, how convenient for them! I think we should be very careful with that kind of "freedom". And decide to very consciously take free time for ourselves, to learn to rest – we need to practice that, just as any other skill.
A pause crept into the conversation between the Creative Ninja and her Travel Companion. The yellow window screens provide light therapy, empty time flows in the empty pool and a non-existent glimmer of water guides your thoughts to the unknown. Here, you can take some time, waste it, if you'd like and think about what would happen if we challenged the cult of work and decided to work less?
A big thank you to the gallery KOENIG2 by_robbygreif and the artist Sigrid Viir for sharing the exhibition False Vacationer with us!
The art association ROTOR in Graz shares with us to share with you the exhibition “Between the found and the constructed”. The show is the third part of the series titled “Beings and Creatures” which consists of four chapters.