Nine to Five, the video work by visual artist Tero Puha, focuses on a housewife's never-ending work in the privacy of a cosy home and kitchen. The figure of a housewife links the video to widely discussed themes among contemporary artists and researchers: banality of everyday life, the feminine existence filled with routine and monotony, and the invisibility of menial tasks in so many homes and kitchens. Toil of a housewife remains secret and invisible. That is why Nine to Five takes the audience to witness a mystery, a hidden epiphany. In the work, the housewife embodies the existential angst and experience of absurdity analysed by many a philosopher. The work of a woman will never be fulfilled. The housewife reaches desperately to an ideal of perfection, but the heroic battle against the clock is predestined to be lost. Simone de Beauvoir, the feminist philosopher, addressed the question of a woman's work: why a home-bound woman must try to justify her existence by an unending toil? Fighting dirt the housewife seeks to control the chaos hidden in the everyday living, argues de Beauvoir. Also in Nine to Five, the housewife's daily work consists of a cycle of monotonous routines. Her prosaic toil is desperate, predestined to fail.
Tero Puha is known for his artistic projects analysing the ideals of perfection and mastering physical and aesthetic control. In his previous works, he has been dealing with the theme by focusing on the lives of young urban men. In contrast to the previous works, in Nine to Five, the protagonist reaching for perfection is female, even a very traditionally feminine one. Also in Nine to Five, reaching for perfection is a highly physical, even visceral, process: the desperate endeavour is inscribed onto the housewife's body.
The housewife is represented as a dark side of the mythical diva: she reminds us of the imaginary nature of idea of perfection as well as the impossibility of the heterosexual idyll. Thus, the video work by Tero Puha shares a thematical focus with such works of art as Far from Heaven by Todd Haynes and The Hours by Michael Cunningham and Stephen Daldry. Nine to Five shares a lot with the performances by Bobby Baker, too. Throughout her oeuvre, she studies the hidden mysteries of everyday lives of housewives. According to Baker, the never-ending toil of a housewife is an adamant effort to give at least an imaginary sense and meaning to the meaningless everyday lived in kitchens and sculleries. Nine to Five, however, ends in desolation. The film goes on minute by minute, while the housewife's desperation grows hour by hour. A lovely night shared with a Man, the dream which inspires her throughout the day, will never come true.
A WOMAN´S WORK
Ph.D. research fellow in Cultural Studies
The complete essay can be read in Tero Puha´s retrospective book Almost Human- Works 1995-2010.