Elin Wikström: RETAiliATOR

Elin Wikström is known for the ‘activated situations’ that she creates in her practice. These involve projects sited within the public domain that question the habits, behaviour and opinions of individuals and society in general. Her projects cause a disruption in the everyday flow of events that force us to reassess our understanding of accepted codes of behaviour, value systems and social conditioning.

Elin Wikström has become increasingly interested in the transformation of the traditional, tangible market place into the less-easily grasped, global mass-market economy. Transactions are no longer a straight forward exchange of goods and services for money; within the new model we are seen as consumers rather than individual citizens, to be manipulated through the design and layout of shops and offered lifestyle choices through product ranges.

The RETAiliATOR project is a play upon ‘retail’ and ‘retaliate’. Wikström and her team of seven assistants, for a period of four weeks during the exhibition, perform a series of actions in a variety of different retail outlets in central London on a daily basis. Functioning in a similar way to the ‘mystery shopper’ who puts goods, services and staff to the test, the RETAiliATORs investigates the ability of major high street chains to react when something out of the ordinary occurred and the customer retaliated against the restrictions of the imposed structure. Rather than acting as normal consumers, browsing the stock, trying clothes on etc. Wikström’s RETAiliATORs performed the simple, yet radical action of lying down on the shop floor to take a rest. The reactions of staff and customers to these people who have apparently ‘shopped ‘til they dropped’ are documented by the artist, and it is this visual and written information that was presented in the back space of the gallery.

While Wikström’s RETAiliATOR project was at The Showroom, her assistants, students from the Fine Art Academy in Umeå, Sweden, were participating in a workshop lead by Wikström entitled, Public Space, the Artist and the Spectator. In addition to assisting Elin Wikström in the production and documentation of the RETAiliATOR actions, they produced their own individual projects in reaction to the theme of the workshop and the particular context that they find themselves in. Their research and development material was shown in the front space of the gallery.


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