Friday, July 13, 2012

Retretti: Cave Allegories – Artist Presentations (official information)

Retretti Art Center 2012, artists on display in the Cave Allegories exhibition:

Adel Abidin
1973 Baghdad, Iraq
Lives and works in Helsinki

Iraqi-born Adel Abidin often deals in his works with questions concerning cultural alienation and marginalization through sharp-sighted irony and sarcasm. Behind the animation Psyché, exploring the power of sexuality, is a play by the same title, written by Molière (1622-1673), the grand master of western comedy writing. Two paths are projected on opposing walls in the cave, one for women and the other for men. On the paths Molière’s characters, L’Amour and Psyché, perform their lines crawling on all fours; each with a plastic replica of the genitalia of the opposite sex dangling in front of them, attached to the character’s waist. The characters seem to only become aware of each other’s presence when their paths cross.

Eija-Liisa Ahtila
1959 Hämeenlinna
Lives and works in Helsinki

Eija-Liisa Ahtila is known for her large-scale video installations that create, through their layered pacing of time and space, multifaceted experiences of the basic questions of human existence. Fishermen is the first work in the series of five single channel video installations called Études. They explore story elements in a short form, each having a special approach related to moving image. Fishermen condenses into a metaphor of continuous competition – defiance of hardships and trials, dreams and hopes of a better life. The meaning levels of universal and personal merge in the fishermen of a poor coastal region in West Africa. They can be interpreted as the ever-growing stream of illegal immigrants trying to make their way to Europe – immigrants, for whom hunger, wars or natural disasters do not warrant even the status of refugee. The global economic imbalance creates a state of seafaring where merciless waves time after time again capsize the boats and cast the fishing equipment into the sea.

Kari Cavén
1954 Savonlinna
Lives and works in Helsinki

Kari Cavén assembles his works from materials and manufactured products he finds and collects himself. Cavén, who initially studied to become a painter, started to create object collages in the mid-1980s, when, as he himself says, he was bitten by the “bug of collecting”. His works are a celebration of recycling: His studio is filled with various potential materials that when the time is ripe gain new meanings in new contexts. Cavén’s characteristic humor and playful inventiveness extend to the titles, which are essential elements of his works. The references they contain offer new significances to the works, through which the artist perceptively comments on the surrounding world. His work Rescue Ready presents life rings to the viewers.

Cleaning Women
Founded 1996
CW01 (Risto Puurunen, 1972 Kuopio), CW03 (Timo Kinnunen, 1977 Heinävesi) ja CW04 (Tero Vänttinen, 1977 Heinävesi)

Cleaning Women is a band that uses home-made instruments and is known for its music videos and musical accompaniments to silent movies. The best known among the latter are the compositions Aelita – The Queen of Mars for a Soviet film by the same title and Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin. A surrealist soundscape combining sound, light and movements, respectful to the tradition of montage, is constructed into the Retretti caves from a video and the Power Plant scale model featured in it. Its different components collide like the key words of the work Q4, The Last Quarter Year: upswing, clearcutting, Fukushima, outsourcing, fast loan, continuous growth, tomato, WTO, economic liberalism, nuclear power plant, palm diesel, light bulb conspiracy, neocolonialism, uranium mine, sweatshop, forced consumption, final profit warning.

Veli Granö
1960, Kajaani
Lives and works in Porvoo

Veli Granö is a visual artist and filmmaker who is also known for introducing the Finnish ITE/DIY art scene to wider audiences. Serving as subjects of Granö’s works are often real people who share an interest in unknown realities and the need to create their own, alternative worlds. Changing one’s course of life in socially closely controlled small communities has meant standing out from others, or even exclusion. The subject of The Prophet is poet-augur Markku Mäkinen whose life was changed by a thunderbolt already as a child. According to Mäkinen, his world opened up and he started to see things others could not see. He felt a compelling need to write poems and soon came to see the prophecy they contained: The human race will sooner or later be forced to choose between materiality and spirituality – for the benefit of the latter.

Ilmari Gryta
1979 Krasnik Lubelsk, Poland
Lives and works in Riihimäki

Ilmari Gryta’s Pillars of the World refers to the need of humans to create theories and measurement systems for understanding life and its laws of order. Columns or pillars are iconic artifacts common to most human cultures, which besides their role of structural support are often also charged with strong symbolic relevance. Gryta’s massive and stately row of pillars can be interpreted as a metaphor for human knowledge and civilization, or for our material culture. Foremost, it reminds of the fragility of our cultural foundation. The inherent, immaterial and constantly changing stream of light that dominates the pillars is impossible to control or predict. Just like in the endless cycle of life it is impossible to determine the beginning or the end.

Tommi Grönlund & Petteri Nisunen
1967 Turku - 1962 Vantaa
Live and work in Helsinki

The sculptural installations of Tommi Grönlund and Petteri Nisunen, who both initially studied to become architects, make use of spaces, environments and physical phenomena. The minimalist simulations detached from nature can gain their content from for example light, sound, movement, vibration, magnetism, mechanics or gravity. This abundance is consolidated into visually minimal works that appeal to the different senses, as if to reveal the mechanics and operational conditions of various phenomena occurring in the given space or environment. The insights they contain, spiked with dry humor, offer clues for interpreting the works but leave the viewers to create their own associations.

Bo Haglund
1963 Porvoo
Lives and works in Helsinki

Bo Haglund’s work as an artist branches out from various forms of visual art to stage design for theatre and cinema, industrial design and graphic design. Haglund studies perceptively and often through a black sense of humor the laws of turbulence both in the cycle of nature and in social relationships. To help him in this task of observing the surrounding world and studying social codes, he has created an alter ego called Stubbhuvu (Stumphead) familiar from his Kodaren cartoon series. When Stumphead, who lives deep in a Finnish forest, is driven out of his isolation by loneliness, sadness and existential pain, he drifts in the chaotic world outside into the role of a scapegoat, a target of all kinds of pestering and ridicule.

Sasha Huber
1975 Uster, Sveitsi / Switzerland
Lives and works in Helsinki

Sasha Huber’s Swiss-Haitian background has served as a starting point for her series of works connected with a search for her own roots. The history of colonialism have also led her on the trail of one of the most prominent natural scientists of the mid-19th century, Louis Agassiz. Huber has in her intervention renamed the mountain peak named after this “discoverer” of ice ages as Rentyhorn, after Renty, a woman slave Agassiz photographed as part of his research on races. Louis Who? shows how self-evident racial inequality was among the leading scientists of the 19th century. The video was filmed at the Louis Agassiz Square located in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The artist rides in, like a messenger from the past, to tell the local people what everybody should know about Louis Agassiz: Researcher, natural scientist, glaciologist, influential racist, pioneering apartheid theorist…

Founded 1998 (Patrik Söderlund, 1974 Turku ja / and Visa Suonpää, 1968 Turku)
Live and work in Turku

IC-98 is a team of two artists that defines as its goal a space of free thought and as its interests “events that never took place, fantastic connections between things, heresies and pure systems of thought, the presence of history in everyday life, the body politic, social formations and architectural constructions, control mechanisms and techniques of escaping them.” The Descent, a vortex-like dive into the effects of social inequality on an individual, from the animation series Theses on the Body Politic, pays homage to Pentti Haanpää’s book “Isännät ja isäntien varjot” (Lords of the House and Their Shadows) set in rural Finland during the 1930s recession. Colony, in turn, depicts an isolated island in the middle of the sea circled by birds foraging for eggs. The landscape is viewed from high above the birds, amidst the clouds.

Elina Juopperi
1975 Oulu
Lives and works in Tornio

Elina Juopperi wanted to photograph all the people who still speak the Inari Sámi language, with the purpose of reminding us that every two weeks a language – the cornerstone of culture and identity – becomes extinct in the world. If the language disappears, not much is left of a culture. At the same time, valuable pieces of cultural heritage, entire worldviews, disappear. The endangered languages in Finland are Inari Sámi and Skolt Sámi. Through the mirror glass of the VIP seats of the Kalliosali Concert Hall in Retretti visitors can see three small cardboard boxes containing the pictures of the 243 speakers of Inari Sámi whom the artist was able to reach for photographing and interviewing. There are thirty persons missing from her collection. Through headphones the vistors can hear sound samples of this language spoken around Lake Inari, based on numerous inflections and a complex nominative and verb morphology.

Pekka Jylhä
1955 Toholampi
Lives and works in Espoo

Pekka Jylhä is transforming the concept of sculpture by creating illusions with unusual materials and stuffed animals, electricity and mechanical devices, fire and water, light, shadows and reflections. The titles of his works often lead to associations on the crash course between humans and nature. Crystal serves as an analogy of the superficial and glittering times we live in. The stuffed animals remind us that somebody will have to pay a steep price for the shortsighted need of humans to exploit and destroy nature. Scapegoat refers to an old myth: In it a stuffed goat is closed off outside under a heavy, black sack of sins to cleanse the atmosphere caused by a social trauma. It Is Not Too Late features ten stuffed hares holding onto each other’s paws in a circle, forging hope.

Tellervo Kalleinen & Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen
1975 Lohja - 1971 Dresden, Saksassa / Germany
Live and work in Helsinki

Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen interact reciprocally with different groups and people in their community-based works. They send out invitations, which through the collective processes give birth to new and unpredictable energy in the form of chain reactions. The Birmingham Complaints Choir started off a worldwide movement of complaints choirs in 2005, which through workshops led by the artists or through the instructions available on the Internet has produced hundreds of complaints choirs. The global spreading of the choirs can also be followed on the website The therapeutic process of preparing for the choirs, shared by all the participants, is an outlet of release and healing. People’s sources of complaint in daily life are surprisingly similar all over the world. The singing turns them into shared joy and laughter.

Otto Karvonen
1975 Helsinki
Lives and works in Helsinki

Otto Karvonen is known for his temporary sculptures and interventions created into public spaces. In them he makes use of the spatial, social and political dimensions of the given environments. He started developing his Alien Palace Birdhouse Collection from a work that spread into an urban environment in Amsterdam in 2010.
The birdhouses are architecturally inspired by the over 200 detention centers for immigrants where EU member states house people arriving from outside the region with no papers to await for their cases to be dealt with. The birdhouses offer excellent nesting conditions for the occasional winged visitors. They are made of weatherproof and durable material, such as stainless steel, cement fiberboard, aluminum and brick.

Antti Laitinen
1975 Raahe
Lives and works in Somero

Antti Laitinen offers himself up as the “basic material” of his works, repeatedly challenging and testing his mental and physical limits and endurance. His projects are based on performance-like events that continue their lives documented in different forms and in new contexts of meaning. The intertwining of absurd and seemingly insignificant things with the human aspiration to find one’s own place and attain independence leads the viewer to existentially reflect on the purpose of life. Bark Boat, also, is based on his childhood games and dreams of freedom. Crossing the Gulf of Finland from southern Finland to the Estonian coast took the artist nearly 20 hours in the 3-meter bark boat he had built – thanks to good weather.

Tea Mäkipää
1973 Lahti
Lives and works in Weimar, Germany

Tea Mäkipää’s Oilissimo is a metaphor for the worldwide concern over serious environmental problems. The most dangerous of the environmental disasters is the creeping development as a result of which humankind will run out of space, fresh water and clean air due to our own actions and changing needs. Logically this path of development means that we would need a new Planet Earth to be able to “develop” and expand our functioning as a species in its present form. In the microcosmos of Oilissimo, the ocean level has risen due to global warming to an extent that the water has already started overflowing. The structures are still functioning and the surface glimmers, but oil, the staple of wealth, has contaminated the living beings – the plants and birds. The conditions and configurations of existence have crucially changed.

Ville Ranta
1978 Oulu
Lives and works in Oulu

In Ville Ranta’s layered comic art direct and minimalist narrative style and laid-back visual expression strike at the core of our fragmented times. In Paradise he parodies the ambivalence of existence through the Christian story of creation: What are the chances of free will in a world that God Almighty has created to his liking? God bears resemblance to the humanlike gods of ancient Greek mythology, who are also capable of hatred, revenge and mockery. But Adam and Eve, cast into the world and obsessed with sexual desire, must however fear and respect their creator in their endless guilt over sin. Adam summarizes the basic human experience of life in these words: “It’s hard to know when to think for yourself, and when not to.” God doesn’t have it easy, either, because due to the wayward behavior of humans he is unable to control his works of creation.

Anni Rapinoja
1949 Hailuoto, Oulu
Lives and works in Hailuoto, Oulu

Studies in geography and botany have given Anni Rapinoja a solid foundation for addressing questions of biodiversity and the vulnerability of nature. For her natural materials are fellow workers for whom she in turn serves as a random assistant in nature’s processes of change where the basic elements – air, sun, wind and water – have first say. As an environmental activist, the artist trusts in the metaphoric implications of her works: “What we do to nature, we do to ourselves.” In the caves the dried flowers of a greenhouse cast as they sway – assisted by aids controlled by a human being – elusive shadows. In a small roofless glass case in the etrance hall Paradise Experiment tests with the help of plants raised from seeds and seedlings and forces of nature the prospects of the birth of a miniature paradise.

Seppo Renvall
1963 Helsinki
Lives and works in Helsinki

Seppo Renvall’s black and white experimental films, videos and photographs, as well as his performance-like happenings, make use of cinematic elements, music and sound, repetition and rhythm. Planet Earth – Encyclopedia is based on the illustrations of a 12-part book series from 1919. The soundtrack is A Gruesome Tale, a piece of score music composed by J.S. Zamecnik around the same time and here performed by Aslak Christiansson. In the rapidly paced juxtapositions of images, collating landscapes with indigenous people or urban images with natural wonders in different parts of the world, the montage-like randomness highlights the cultural hierarchies and classifications of the early 20th century.

Paavo Räbinä
1965 Kuopio
Lives and works in Bryssels

Paavo Räbina finds the themes for his works in historical and literary sources as well as social structures and cultural injustices. He has derived material for his works from Brecht’s and Shakespeare’s plays or from the Finnish civil war and the related consequences of social inequality. Regardless of the historical undertones, Räbinä’s works are always very topical. This topicality is also manifested in his emotionally powerful black and white video installation Remember Us from 1999, extending from the background of marginalization caused by poverty. The portrayal of a bread line in the Kallio district of Helsinki is accompanied by a beautiful libretto from Henry Purcell’s opera Dido and Aenas from 1689, performed by soprano Jaana Mäntynen. The organs of the Meilahti church in Helsinki highlight the principal message of the installation: The importance of human dignity.

Emma Rönnholm
1984 Turku
Lives and works in Helsinki

Emma Rönnholm’s Urban Caravan is a revolving installation starring used and discarded plastic products – jars, bottles and packages – manifesting their own lightness and practicality. In deeper reflection, this joyous and colorful carousel turns however into a symbol of our culture of disposable products: After long processes of product development, manufacturing and marketing, the contents of the plastic containers are consumed in just a few moments. Today a majority of all household waste comes from packaging and other material with the sole purpose of containing, transporting or hiding something else. Under present circumstances, this enormous mass of material isn’t even recycled. Light plastic is one of the most rapidly accumulating types of problem waste, producing the heaviest burden on the environment.

Kaija Saariaho
1952 Helsinki
Lives and works in Paris, France

Kaija Saariaho’s compositions awake strong visual associations in their listeners, which is why they are often assessed in visual terms. Drawing sketches plays an important part in her process of composing music. Nox Borealis, one of collaborative visual music installations by Kaija Saariaho and Jean-Babtiste Barrière, combines two different sonic sources: Kaija Saariaho’s composition Lichtbogen (Arches of Light) and the soundscapes of aurora borealis recorded by Unto K. Laine, professor at the Helsinki University of Technology. Lichtbogen is based on the experience of nature produced by aurora borealis when the northern Finnish winter sky is plowed by movements of light and sound. Visualized by Jean-Babtiste Barrière, Nox Borealis creates a meditative space for calming down and concentrating.

Charles Sandison
1969 Glasgov, Scotland, Great-Britain
Lives and works in Tampere

Charles Sandison creates computer-programmed light installations, made up of words, symbols and movements, which only when projected on different architectural spaces, surfaces and contexts, produce whole artworks based on the specific semantic meanings. The different elements and details influence each other and live in continuous interaction with each other. The very randomness inherent to the works opens up infinite possibilities for them. Red and White can be perceived as a modern-day living cave painting in the deepest cavern of the Retretti caves. It can also be historically associated with the tragedy of Finnish society embarking on independence, the traumas of which we are still today unraveling. What kind of alternative paths of development could there have been that would have allowed us to avoid the pain and losses?

Pilvi Takala
1981 Helsnki
Lives and works in Istanbul, Turkey

Pilvi Takala’s works are documented performances and situation-based interventions, which in a subtle way reveal and question the social norms and rules that guide our actions.     She does this by telling only part of a story and leaving the viewers to fill in the rest through their own associations. Real Snow White focuses on the logic of a “real character” in relation to the strict rules of Disneyland Paris: The artist, a real admirer of Snow White, cannot, based on general, unwritten rules, be allowed to enter the amusement park dressed as Snow White. Through questioning and laughing at herself and others, the artist reveals models of control and standardizing which produce consequences at the interface of public and private that seem absurd.

Tommi Toija
1974 Lapua
Lives and works in Helsinki

Tommi Toija’s small, humanlike ceramic figures are like talismans that with their reciprocal example create self-understanding in the viewer. The works are born from red clay, through firing and treating them afterwards with various techniques. They often get paint on their surface or become joined with other elements. In their repetition and thematic continuum they together form a miniature world where a full range of human emotions is reflected. At their most typical, Toija’s clay figures, lonely and sad, seem to be viewing the world they have ended up in and its norms which they have to learn in wide-eyed bewilderment. King of the Hill keeps blowing glass bubbles around him in his own selfish innocence, as if imitating a human individual convinced of his own omnipotence.

Pauliina Turakka-Purhonen
1971 Haapavesi
Lives and works in Helsinki
The topics of Pauliina Turakka-Purhonen’s paintings, sketches and works created with a particular sewing technique deal with the social relationships between people. Her textile works are inspired by the wooden sculptures in the medieval churches of the Åland Islands environment where she grew up. They both are like three-dimensional paintings emphasizing corporeality, where the whole is made up different parts, colors and other details. In Turakka-Purhonen’s works Christian imagery gets new interpretations through humor, which often question and mix gender roles, and where the sacred and the everyday are interlinked in the cycle of life. The works gain a whole other level from their elements that could be perceived as feminine, from the virtuosity of creating textile art to mundane pins and yarn.

Salla Tykkä
1973 Helsinki
Lives and works in Helsinki

The captivating atmospheres of Salla Tykkä’s video works and photographs waver somewhere between the real and the unreal. The works are studies of identity, which often focus on the power relationships between the sexes, cultural stereotypes and the structures that uphold them. Containing references to the avant-garde art of the early 20th century, the self-portraying study, Portrait, consisting nine black and white photographs, is based on photo collages that the artist has scanned and printed out with the help of modern technology. Through its emphasis on psychological state and attitude the series focuses on the frailness and fragility of the human soul and mind. It refuses however to remain as a mere object, but looks firmly back and sort of demands to change places with the viewer.

Roi Vaara
1953 Moss, Norja / Norway
Lives in Helsinki

Roi Vaara’s performances and interventions and their video documentations often deal with social and ecological themes. The video Snow Business parodies the economic performance goals of our times. In it the artist has become an entrepreneur who loads and transports raw material from the south to a rural market in Central Finland. But the unwavering camera and its direct shots mercilessly reveal that innovative products are hard to sell. Despite his marketing efforts, the Finnish dark and gray winter weather does not help to convince of the earning logic of snowball business. Leg Carrying Introductions offers analogies to the spectacles and markets of the art world where objects of art may require massive arrangements, transportation needs and various  structures. In this work only the performance is on sale and the material travels easily along with the artist.

Elina Vainio
1981 Jyväskylä
Lives and works in Helsinki

Elina Vainio’s works are often serial-like entities or spatial installations that study reality as a construction subjected to different influences. Planet Earth Advertisements is an installation made up of advertisement photos discovered by the artist, showing how strongly the images embedded in our minds since the lunar landing of Apollo 17 have remained as part of our global, collective memory. Even though real-time information on the condition and events of our planet keeps increasing all the time, the image of the globe is reproduced in its same appearance in the marketing of a widest range of companies, products and services. The image sells the best when viewed from space, as an easily identifiable and comprehensible blue ball glowing in the dark.

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