Freelancer’s Delight

Rosa Aiello’s Caryatid Encounters

Rosa Aiello, Caryatod Encounters, 2021, installation view of digital video. Image courtesy the artist, and Arcadia Missa.

There are bloody thumb prints dotting the desk, with dark drips on a Post-it note and crimson smudges on the photocopied images of architectural caryatids that cover the desk’s surface. A woman clutches at her thumb, alternately covering it with her fingers to quell the bleeding, then nervously biting and picking at it to make it worse. “Of course I want to make you happy,” she placates an irate client over the phone, “I know you have other deadlines”. The bleeding isn’t stopping. “Look,” she emphasises. “I really want this. Absolutely. Yes, yes, yes, I can do that. I want to give you what you want. OK, tomorrow, I’ll get it to you tomorrow.” She ends the call, hangs her head and curses.

This is Helen: she’s a freelance advertising producer of some sort, who likes pastel blazers and button-up silk shirts, and lives in a light and airy first floor apartment in Berlin. And she likes cooking, in the pitifully small convection-oven that sits on a counter in her grimy kitchen; she once cooked a whole chicken in it, lasagne, birthday cakes and… cookies. She made cookies, would you like a cookie? This is the incessant refrain throughout Rosa Aiello’s taut and nerve-wracking 47-minute video Caryatid Encounters (2021), as Helen repeatedly practices and delivers her spiel for a series of prospective flatmates: “The wallpaper is all original, and we get lovely light in here in the mornings”; “I absolutely love the views here, you should see it at sunset, it’s just magic”; and on.

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Condo London 2016

Multiple venues, London, 16 January – 13 February 2016


‘Artists’ Clothes’, installation view, Carlos Ishikawa, 2016. Image courtesy the gallery.

Some readers might have seen the recent film The Big Short, the Oscar-nominated semi-post-modern comedy that attempts to explain the exploits of a few profiteers from the 2008 housing market crash in the US. Spoiler alert: these guys saw a collapse coming, and decided to profit on it, and then it happens. It’s only after you’ve left the cinema and the jaunty tone of the film wears off that it becomes clearer: they weren’t underdogs, or crusaders or visionaries, as the film attempts to portray them, just hedge funders finding a way to profit from a situation. Sure, there’s a bit of hand wringing, which is perhaps the most remarkable part: we’re supposed to empathise with these guys. The moral of the tale is much darker, a sort of Russian doll abyss that might be handily summed up by a blog title from Dallas’s International Risk Management Institute: ‘Taking Risks to Create Value – It’s What Capitalism’s All About!’ Continue reading