ANNA-LENA TSUTSUI

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Baby Dolls | 2008/10

video-installation | loop
The projection of the boxes is life-sized. Their number (12 - 35) and thus the size of the installation depend on the exhibition space.

Sabine Elsa Müller, 2013 :

The installation “Baby Dolls” (2008) by Anna-Lena Tsutsui dominates the street scenery through its aggressive tawdriness. To attract attention, the work uses strategies found in advertising: fluorescent colors, glaring light, fast movements and the emotional impact of cute dog puppies determine this work. In fact, the images originate from a store, a pet shop in Japan. There, these instruments are applied to initiate the buying incentive. The young dogs are presented as if they were any other product for sale, to attract as much attention as possible.

Tsutsui has shot the boxes one by one and assembled them to a wall of videos on a 1:1 scale. The installation corresponds to the dimensions of the showcase and far exceeds the original presentation in Japan. Fitted into this architecture, the rigidity of the almost squared boxes raises to the unbearable as well as the restlessness of the maniacal and clumsy movements of the puppies, which are in intense opposition to the boxes. Caught in this tied form, the animals lose every sign of self-determination: Their movements become purely mechanic, an absurd ballet of externally controlled marionettes. The blank action of living beings mutates into abstract patterns of movement.

Thereby we hear sounds, of which a female softly singing some pop song, human voices, busy chatter and animal sounds can be distinguished. At first, these sounds appear to be the usual sounds of a commercial center, until the relations to the images get closer. The animal sounds turn out to be heartbreaking whining. A strange knocking becomes more and more distinct and a dog that is particularly hectically bouncing in his prison is identified as its author. The perception of the image that was at first sensed colorful and amusing as well as the lulling sounds changes: In principle, they stay the same, because the short sequences are repeating permanently in an infinite loop, but because of this structure of repetition, a kind of counter-movement occurs. Just like the animals in the boxes, the sound itself is trapped; it goes in circles. There is no way forwards or backwards.
The impression of isolation is enforced by the fact that each box has its own timing, its own dynamic in the editing. As the boxes are illuminated from the inside, they recall screens with colorful cases. The desperate attempts of the animals to break out look like performances in order to amuse the spectators. Extremely opposed feelings such as compassion, care and amusement, alternate. On the one hand, we identify with the animals and feel their suffering in an empathic way, on the other hand there is this distance – in the projection visualized by the rigid grid of the cages – that makes it possible to keep the animals at bay as well physically and mentally.

“Baby Dolls” is a stringent conceptual work, in which the reality, with respect to the location, is concentrated to a firmly assembled image, and the feeling of imprisonment is exponentiated. This tightly fitted image virtually challenges the resistance to immovable structures. By making itself common with the location, the installation gains credibility and relevance.