Eija-Liisa Ahtila: Studies on the Ecology of Drama, film still, 2017
A gigantic spruce, it’s branches swaying gently in the wind, which is blowing through myriads of very fine needles. The video installation Horizontal (2011) is the portrait of a single tree, almost large as life and tilted by ninety degrees. This is not the only work that gives anyone willing to open themselves up to the multi-dimensional complexity of Eija-Liisa Ahtila’s art a pleasant sensation of dizziness.
Faced with the self-imposed challenge of fitting a spruce more than forty meters high into the square of a camera viewfinder, Ahtila saw only two options at first: to capture it from some distance in the context of a landscape, or from right up close. But in that case, the beautiful, even form of the tree would have come too short because of the distortion such a perspective brings with it. So the artist decided to film the tree in six sections using a lifting platform. The result is a cinematic portrait that is as simple and natural as it is alien. The example of the tree shows that it is a specific human ‘distortion through perspective’ that determines how we see the world.
As part of her multi-layered work, the Finnish film and video artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila has repeatedly made the relativity of our perception as the subject of her work. Film as a medium allows us to show the world as we see it. And yet, at the same time, it has the potential to open up simultaneous perspectives of one and the same reality.
Anthropocentrism places human beings at the centre of the world. But how far can our understanding of the world reach when our perception is restricted by senses that are specifically human? It is precisely this question that Ahtila’s newest work Studies of the Ecology of Drama (2017) examines. Stylistically reminiscent of a film used for teaching purposes, it playfully presents ‘exercises’ in a new way of seeing – and takes us step for step out of our anthropocentric certainty and into a fascinating ‘terrain vague’. As will become apparent, even a small and unassuming tree nursery in Finland is home to an entire microcosm of alternative perceptions of the world.
Me/We, Okay, Gray (1993) shows three relationship dramas condensed into a few seconds using the aesthetics of Film Noir and, with it, the exhibition narrative takes us back to the beginnings of Eija-Liisa Ahtila’s artistic praxis. In the almost 25 years of her creative work, the artist has found very different ways to break open our restrictive, all too human subjectivity and to open up to us with her camera a kaleidoscopic diversity made up of very different worlds of perception.
Text: Katharina Weinstock
Terike Haapoja: 20160130_red head, from the series Gravitation, 2017
1. movement, or a tendency to move, toward a centre of attractive force, as in the falling of bodies to the earth
2. movement toward or attraction to something
Terike Haapoja is a Finnish visual artist based in New York. Over more than a decade her work has focused on examining the boundaries of our communities, our relationship with the nonhuman world and how the “otherness” of nature, animals or other humans is constructed. Haapoja represented Finland in the 55 Venice Biennale with a solo show in the Nordic Pavilion, and she has been awarded with numerous grants and prizes, including ANTI prize for Live Art (2016), Dukaatti-prize (2008) and Ars Fennica prize nomination. History of Others, Haapoja's collaboration with writer Laura Gustafsson has been awarded with Finnish State Media art award (2016) and Kiila-prize (2013). Haapoja's work has been seen in solo and group shows internationally, most recently in Chronus Art Center Shanghai, The National Art Museum of China, Beijing, ISCP New York, Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art Helsinki, ZKM Karlsruhe and Momentum Biennale Norway.
GRAVITATION marks a turn to a more intimate, direct approach in Haapoja’s practice. The series of 73 photographs are born from a personal urgency that bypasses discourse. Created at fast pace during a time of physical and emotional hardship, the images reveal moments of desire, mortality, abandonment and agency, objectification and the pull towards becoming an object. The series is a beginning of a new focus: after extensive exploration of the question of the nonhuman, Haapoja’s new work will be looking at what have we become as humans, and how our individuality, our desire to be free or the desire to give away our freedom, is constructed.
The exhibition GRAVITATION at Salon Dahlmann presents selected work from the series alongside a preview of the upcoming artist book by the same title. The series will be also on show in ANTI International Festival for Live Art, Finland, that has co-produced the project.
© Nina Hoffmann & Kathrin Sonntag
The exhibition UP IN ARMS presents a collaboration of Nina Hoffmann and Kathrin Sonntag. The series of photographs, taken in 2017, is shown here for the first time installed as a slide projection.
This text, written by Aleksandra Bielas, came into being while spending time with the series of photographs UP IN ARMS by Nina Hoffmann and Kathrin Sonntag.
When I’m inside out
I am you and you are me and who are we anyways. I dream, my skin carries you. My skin breathes you. I am a street, I am woods, I’m in fields. I am a tree I told you so often. I brake. I lose leaves. My skin is yours as you are my gardener. Do you see me? Because I see you. I look at you, I look through you, I cry as often as it rains. My hair my back my nose as if I were a soft boiled egg. My shell brakes. I leak. I am as I am as you see me. Turned on the left side the seams of me. Patches of you. You can unbutton me or hide in my pocket. I am a tent. I look at myself through the pattern you sew for me.
Stitches like paths scars like maps threads lose buttons a hole.
But I am not alone so many limbs I have.
You scare me sometimes you’re heavy. I’m in chains of the world of mine. I laugh more often than you think but my legs are heavy, I carry bricks around for the house of mine. That shed you’ve found in the forest. That tree with a hole, that abandoned cave. You whisper into my ear while caressing my hair and I sit between both of you quietly. I look straight forward at the beaming screen.