Friday, September 04, 2020

Anna Eriksson: M – The Rituals of a Lonely Bitch (an exhibition at Rauma Art Museum)


Anna Eriksson: M – The Rituals of a Lonely Bitch (an exhibition at Rauma Art Museum, 2020). Photo: Cursum Perficio Ihode Management Oy.

Anna Eriksson: M – The Rituals of a Lonely Bitch
A video art exhibition.
Rauma Art Museum, Kuninkaankatu 37, 26100 Rauma
September 5 – November 22, 2020
Curators: Matti Pyykkö and Heta Kaisto.
    Visited: vernissage, opening speech: Taina Myllyharju (Tampere Art Museum), 4 Sep 2020.

Anna Eriksson : M : Untitled Films Stills 2014–2019 .
Editors: Anna Eriksson, Matti Pyykkö, Pietari Kaakkomäki. Graphic design: Pietari Kaakkomäki. Texts: Giona A. Nazzaro, Beatrice Fiorentino, Olaf Möller, Juho Typpö, Jussi Parviainen, Tytti Rantanen, Heta Kaisto.
Helsinki : Parvs, 2020. Printed in Latvia : Livonia Print.

M – a Film by Anna Eriksson (2018).
Ihode Cursum Perficio Production, 2020.

Rauma Art Museum: "Artist Anna Eriksson (born in 1977, Rauma) drew attention with her first film M in 2018. The film was nominated at the Venice Film Festival, after which it has won awards in Europe and the United States. Eriksson was responsible for the direction, script and the sound design of the film. She also played the provocative leading role herself."

"M is the protagonist of the film, but also a reflection of Eriksson’s subconsciousness and a challenge that has helped her to slough off her skin. M is a character that hovers between reality and fiction, a tedious bitch that Eriksson channels with visual experimentations, autosuggestion, performance and the iconography of popular culture."

"“M – The Rituals of a Lonely Bitch” is Anna Eriksson’s first exhibition. It continues Eriksson’s artistic work around the themes of sexuality and death and presents Eriksson’s creative process as personal, raw and bare. The movie inspired by Marilyn Monroe has already faded to the background. This is about the woman called M, and her grotesque, self-ironic and tragic world."

"The exhibition consists of five new video artworks and a photograph installation. The other curator of the exhibition is Matti Pyykkö, who works as Eriksson’s cameraman."

"The exhibition contains intense picture and sound material. It is not recommended for sensitive viewers or underage people without adult supervision.
" (Rauma Art Museum)

The Rauma Art Museum is located in the wooden old town of Rauma, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is home to changing contemporary art exhibitions and the art collections of the City of Rauma.

AA: Anna Eriksson, one of Finland's most beloved singers, caused a stir two years ago by releasing a feature-length experimental film: M – a Film by Anna Eriksson (2018), which had been six years in the making. The high profile film was an independent production, made outside regular film financing structures and theatrical distribution practices. Its festival premiere took place at the Venice International Film Critics' Week at Venice International Film Festival in 2018.

Movie-making is not unusual with pop stars. Madonna, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga are also film-makers. But Eriksson embarked on something different: a ruthless and agonizing journey about the suffering of the flesh. The film, based on compelling inner necessity, has affinities with some of the most daring lineages in experimental and feminist cinema.

When I saw the film, I felt connections with the legacy of female avantgardists including Yoko Ono, Toni Basil, Valie Export and Wiener Aktionismus, the young Chantal Akerman and the young Penelope Spheeris, not to speak about youthful works of Finnish female film-makers from the art world.

The essayists of the exhibition book evoke further soulmates: Maya Deren, Cindy Sherman, Francesca Woodman, Hannah Wilke and Friederike Pezold (mentioned by Olaf Möller), and Barbara Hammer, Carolee Schneeman and Cecelia Condit (quoted by Tytti Rantanen).

The film, the book, and the video art exposition are all different interpretations of the same persona. The exposition is the most powerful and disturbing of them. Fundamentally, all are about Eros and Thanatos, the life force and the death drive. 

In the exhibition, the atavistic forces are extremely charged. Anna Eriksson converts her body to a battleground of the elements. She stages yet another passion play and rosy crucifixion. Watching the videos, I'm hot and bothered. The images are frankly sexual or extremely violent, beyond splatter.

These kinds of extreme images seem to communicate via the manifest surface, but in fact, the true impact takes place in the latent layers of the mind. The images bypass consciousness and reach the unconscious via shortcuts, blending with dreams and nightmares. We are in realms beyond rational analysis, perceivable only via signs, emblems and art.

Disturbing as the videos are, the exhibition is a well balanced complex and the hanging, the lighting and the soundscape are immaculate, honed in every detail. 


This year 2020 is the 125th anniversary of the cinema and psychoanalysis, both launched in the same year 1895. Psychoanalysis has always been discredited, and I expect it to keep being discredited for the next 125 years. Nevertheless, its focus on Eros and Thanatos has been taken for granted in world culture, especially in the cinema, and also for instance in advertising.

The world "subliminal" is often misunderstood to mean "hidden images" such as flash frames that we fail to register consciously. In reality, the images are not hidden, they are hiding in plain sight. The subliminal impact occurs in the most obvious images, like when a beautiful man / woman advertises a product. We laugh at such blatant persuasion, but in the supermarket we find ourselves selecting the very product.

One of the most startling discoveries of early psychoanalysis was the importance of incest in psychical disturbances – real incest or incest fantasy. Psychoanalysis was ahead of its time with this emphasis. It was the first school of thought that paid serious attention to child sexual abuse.

Meanwhile, artists were discovering the theme. In Frank Wedekind's plays Earth Spirit and Pandora's Box, Lulu is a victim of child sexual abuse. The plays gained recognition also in the opera adaptation of Alban Berg and several film adaptations, including ones starring Erna Morena and Asta Nielsen.

The most durable film adaptation turned out to be G. W. Pabst's Pandora's Box, made in 1929 but truly discovered only at La Cinémathèque française in the 1940s, starring Louise Brooks as Lulu, one of the most enigmatic and alluring erotic presences of the 20th century.

Not only Lulu but also Louise Brooks herself were victims of child sexual abuse, and such was also the background of the character played by Brooks in her previous masterpiece, Beggars of Life, directed by William A. Wellman.

Let's observe that the previous films called M, by Fritz Lang (1931) and Joseph Losey (1951), are crime dramas around child sexual abuse.

The Marilyn Monroe saga was the original inspiration for Anna Eriksson's M project. Monroe was the first star to discuss child sexual abuse in public, and this emphasis was presumably the reason why she became a lifelong devotee of psychoanalysis.

In Theogony and Work and Days, Hesiod tells how Hephaestus forged the first woman, Pandora, following the instructions of Zeus who wanted to punish mankind after Prometheus had stolen the fire from heaven. When Pandora opens her box, she unleashes all the evils on humanity.

But in the works of Frank Wedekind, Alban Berg, G. W. Pabst, Louise Brooks and Anna Eriksson, ruthless men have broken Pandora's box while she was a little child, bringing calamity to us all. Over the greatest beauty and charm falls the shadow of disgrace and death.

The "disco bus" delegation from Helsinki visiting Anna Eriksson's vernissage at Rauma, 4 Sep 2020. Kirsi, Pia, Katariina, Teijo, Timo Kaukolampi (sitting left), Jarkko Ojanen, Pietari Kaakkomäki, Mikko Rasila, Miko Kivinen, Marianna Uutinen, Antti Vassinen (back row, fourth from left), Sonata Hauta-aho (first row, fourth from right), Anna Eriksson (center), Stefan Bremer (second from right), Jussi Parviainen (third from left), Antti Alanen, bus driver (first from right). Photo: Matti Pyykkö.

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