We watch Paula Ábalos – almost secretly – at work on two projections arranged at right angles. What we see is the video material that Ábalos has collected over the years with her camera, hidden in shelves and attached to her body. When cut together, the footage becomes a kind of video diary, or more precisely, it is the artist's working diaries. As silent observers, we look through the lens she has placed. But what we see is neither mysterious nor spectacular. It is a documentation of her everyday working life, which is interspersed with monotonous processes in sterile scenarios: in a snack bar in a stadium, on an assembly line, in a supermarket. She prepares and praises. She cuts, washes and covers. With the shots, we travel back and forth between Santiago de Chile and Leipzig, without chronological sequence between the years 2013 and 2015, listening to the artist's narratives and getting to know precise subtleties of each process: No package must be lost, the temperature of the sausages must be checked regularly, and 'Enter' must be pressed at the right moment.
Is it these activities that make Paula Ábalos' artistic activity possible? Already in earlier works, she has dealt with the dichotomy when passion and earning a living can hardly be combined. The identity of Ábalos is only fragmentarily revealed in these autobiographical images, and her narratives persist at the highest level. We learn that the artist eats a vegetarian diet. What the daily contact with meat in her job in a stadium snack bar does to her, however, we do not learn. We learn that she no longer lives in her home country but on another continent. We can only guess that this separation is not always easy. But soon, we too are trapped, in a workflow, completely at the mercy of Ábalos' repetitive actions. It is difficult to devote our full attention to the images over 27 minutes because the documentary recording of this monotony offers little incentive to do so. But it allows us to fall into a trance-like observation, similar to the artist during her work. Thus we participate. Our thoughts are soon trapped in routine hand movements, expecting only the predictable. It must work, but we don't have to feel it: »No time to think, just do«. (Riccarda Hessling)
At the core of my artistic practice is the question of how to translate through audiovisual means the clash between the internal world and outside spaces, specifically highly ideologized and commodified ones. I am especially interested in the relationship we create with the workplace and where the mind goes during long working hours.
Mixing documentary, poetic and fictional languages, I create bridges between the inner and the outer world, where borders dissolve, leaving these worlds marked with a personal atmosphere.
My method is based on the recording of places I inhabit and work in. Then, in the postproduction stage, I include poetic perspectives to these spaces, with a critical stance on contemporary, social, political and economic issues. As I feel that these spaces appear in front of me with ideas that do not belong to me, a sort of liberation and resistance emerges; an attempt to protect the 'self'. (Paula Ábalos)
* We can only show an excerpt of this work in the online archive. For the complete version, please contact the artist.
Images: Paula Ábalos, Diarios de trabajos, 2020 © Paula Ábalos