SCORE FOR HOLD TIME draws upon a collective recognition of a song from the turn of the twenty-first century that has been modified almost beyond recognition to a sound that is, at best, a meditative chant and, at worst, a drone. Another dimension and critical component of the installation becomes apparent when it’s revealed that the group of speakers were originally part of an Athens municipal building. The lyrics that repeat throughout the song, “Do you think you’re better off alone?” and “Talk to me,” take on new poignance when emanating from an apparatus sourced from the birthplace of democracy as well as the site of repeated financial crises over the last twenty years. When played in an exhibition situated in infamously neutral Switzerland, a country that remains firmly uninterested in European Union membership, the lyrics could imply a broader political indictment of neutrality during wartime in Europe or of the widespread anti-EU sentiment beyond Switzerland. But, returning to the crux of a public institution that must interface between audience, art members, and the voting commission that presides over them, the song’s question of independence via separation can be viewed through the ever-present politics of a museum’s role, responsibility, or even its ability to exist.
Though the fresco contains only the insurance policy’s introduction, the text continues, hiding in plain sight, in SCORE FOR COVERAGE (EXCEPTIONS - EXCLUSIONS) (2023), which appears printed on every purchase receipt from the Kunsthalle’s bookstore in German and English but not in Greek. As every policy would have it, a loophole breaks down the insurer’s non-responsibility in the event that Touliatou engages in risky behavior, including “her misconduct; […] participation in pro wrestling or amateur boxing […] war, civil war, revolution, rebellion, insurrection.” Though the legal language does not directly point to the artist’s profession or politics, these stipulations tug at the romanticized notions of an artist’s contribution to social change or opposition to the status quo. In taking out a life insurance policy to benefit the Kunsthalle members—above all the member’s leading commission—Touliatou effectively subdues her critical agency and places it and in direct contradiction to the financial value of her life. The gesture implicates the Kunsthalle’s members as invested in her pacification. At the same time, perhaps this insertion of a quotidian material is the artist’s gift to the audience—a Félix González-Torres–style souvenir—suggesting the ubiquity of ownership, consumerism, and complicity in art world commodification and transactional aspects of culture.
Touliatou further intervenes in the institution’s operations through considerations of the administrative worker’s role in caring for and maintaining the art and institution during the exhibition. The two works SCORE FOR REFUSE and SCORE FOR TONAL CHANGE (both 2023) embed aspects of the Kunsthalle’s unseen day-to-day administration in the space of the exhibition, prompting further questions around who and what is implicated in their gestures. SCORE FOR REFUSE appropriates the institution’s document shredder, relocating it to the last room of the exhibition and positioning it next to the only window in the exhibition space that overlooks the Kunsthalle’s offices. The press text notes that during work hours, the shredder will be used by administrators to dispose of any sensitive or financial documents, interrupting the typical administrative disposal procedure while also constructing a visible performance. For the audience, the proximity to the shredded and presumably sensitive material that is accessible but indecipherable further reinforces the tension of institutional visibility or public accountability.