At the beginning of Ale Bachlechner’s documentary video work, the title »this is not a competition« appears in simple letting on the door through which we enter into the performance installation. Once inside, we become participants in a coaching seminar, and are guided through a series of rooms in which we take part in a program to designed to develop and enhance our »personal performance«. The watchword of the seminar: competition.
Throughout the course of the program, the participants find themselves torn between a feeling of safety and a sensation of vulnerability. The coaching and training activities blend seem to merges seamlessly with the familiar tropes of competition. Initially, the scenario seems to unfold in a protective environment: the light pink walls of the reception room are gently illuminated by dim lighting; the receptionist, dressed in grey and pink, speaks in an almost exaggerated whisper. But any feeling of comfort remains elusive – the atmosphere is somehow suspect, and the sense of safety seems too forced. The receptionist’s strikingly bright red lipstick is has something unnerving about it, hinting at the performance-oriented mindset which awaits us in the following rooms. In the course of the video, the nature of the program gradually becomes clear. As the participants are informed that all of their answers will be reviewed, every sitting filmed, and every performance observed, it becomes clear that any prospect of a healthy and relaxed approach to one’s own performance will be stifled by observation and judgement. Observation means judgement means a focus on ›results‹. On the one hand, performance is a creative act of self-expression, while on the other, it forms the core of capitalism’s demand for the kind of results, self-marketing and artistic entrepreneurship that the program demands of its participants. At the end of the film, it seems the suspicion we had at the outset has been confirmed: this is very much a competition. (Lisa Han)