Installation view of Mika Vainio’s sound installation 2 x 540 kHz, 2009, at ‘50 Hz’, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, 2020 Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Found Voices and Meaningful Silences: ­Situating Mika Vainio’s Sound Installations and their Spatial Practices

Kati Kivinen, PhD, Chief Curator, Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma

Also published in Kati Kivinen & Rikke Lundgreen (eds.), Mika Vainio: 50 Hz. Museum of Contemporary Art. Publication 172 / 2020. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Transl. Silja Kudel

Mika Vainio (1963–2017) is known in his homeland primarily for his minimalistic electronic music and he achieved international acclaim as a pioneering avant-garde composer. What is less well known to many Finns is that, in addition to carving out a notable musical career, Vainio also distinguished himself as an accomplished sound artist within the domain of contemporary art. In the late 1990s, he began exhibiting spatial sound installations in many group exhibitions, mainly in continental Europe and North America.

Sound art rose to prominence in contemporary art in the late 1990s through exhibition projects foregrounding sound in its various forms and meanings.[1] During this period, Vainio created a number of sound installations for exhibitions, both as solo projects and in collaboration with other musicians and artists, such as his fellow member of the band Pan Sonic, Ilpo Väisänen; the German artist and composer Carsten Nicolai; and the Italian-born artist Micol Assaëli. In addition to creating his own sound installations, Vainio collaborated actively with many artists and choreographers, composing soundscapes and music for their various works.[2]

[1] The sound art boom took off in earnest around the turn of the millennium. Among the exhibitions then featuring sound and aurality in contemporary art were ‘Sonic Boom: The Art of Sound’ at London’s Hayward Gallery (2000) and ‘Volume: Bed of Sound’ (2000) at New York’s MoMA PS1. Vainio took part in both exhibitions together with Ilpo Väisänen. A few years later Vainio was invited to take part in ‘Frequencies [Hz]: Audio-visual space’ (2002) at Frankfurt’s Schirn Kunsthalle. Sound and music in contemporary art were also highlighted in ‘Sons & Lumieres: A History of Sound in the Art of the 20th Century’ at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2004. More recent exhibitions dedicated to sound art have included ZKM’s ‘Sound Art. Sound as a Medium of Art’ (2012), MoMA’s ‘Soundings: A Contemporary Score’ (2013) and Fundació Joan Miró’s ‘Sound Art?’ (2019). Among the earliest sound art events was ‘Soundings’, an exhibition curated by art historian Suzanne Delehanty at Neuberger Museum SUNY Purchase, as early as 1981.

[2] Mika Vainio composed music for video works by artists including Mika Taanila, Saara Ekström and Anu Pennanen. He also composed music for dance performances, for example for the Belgian choreographer Cindy Van Acker. For further details, see Mika Taanila. ‘Soundtracks from a Distance’, in Kati Kivinen & Rikke Lundgreen (eds.), Mika Vainio: 50 Hz. Museum of Contemporary Art. Publication 172 /2020. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery /Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, 63–76.

Featured image: Installation view of Mika Vainio’s sound installation 2 x 540 kHz, 2009, at ‘50 Hz’, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, 2020
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

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Items from Mika Vainio’s studio in Oslo, selected by Rikke Lundgreen. ‘Mika Vainio: 50 Hz’, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, 2020 Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

Still Life: A Personal Archive

Rikke Lundgreen

Also published in Kati Kivinen & Rikke Lundgreen (eds.), Mika Vainio: 50 Hz. Museum of Contemporary Art Publication 172 / 2020. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. English proofreading for the book Arlyne Moi

In this text, I focus on the belongings of the composer and visual artist Mika Vainio. Mika had his studio at home and surrounded himself with all kinds of objects: books, musical compositions and notation, records, found objects and memorabilia. What defines a personal archive? Can we categorise his belongings as an archive? How do the possessions of this artist lead us to a fuller understanding of his works? Are we searching for things that confirm the view we already have of him, or for things that help us to tell the stories we would like to tell?

In Plato’s dialogue Theaetetus, Socrates talks about Mnemosyne, goddess of memory, in the following way:

I would have you imagine, then, that there exists in the mind of man a block of wax, which is of different sizes in different men; harder, moister, and having more or less of purity in one than another, and in some of an intermediate quality. […] Let us say that this table is a gift of Mnemosyne, the mother of the Muses; and that when we wish to remember anything which we have seen, or heard, or thought in our own minds, we hold the wax to the perceptions and thoughts, and in that material receive the impression of them as from the seal of a ring; and that we remember and know what is imprinted as long as the image lasts; but when the image is effaced, or cannot be taken, then we forget and do not know.[1]

Mika’s studio contains items such as cigar boxes, old gramophone records, drawings by the artist Franz Graf, a bowling pin, a stone from William S. Burroughs’ porch, ticket stubs, notation for musical compositions, films, vinyl records and books. These are the gifts of Mnemosyne, and as well as using them in my reflections, I draw on conversations I had with Mika, as his partner, and on certain written and recorded sources. Mika and I shared a flat in Oslo, where he lived and worked. He preferred to work from home, in close proximity to his equipment. He could be selective about who he invited into his studio.

[1] Plato. ‘Theaetetus’, in The Dialogues of Plato, vol. 2, 191c-d. Translated by Benjamin Jowett, 1892. New York: Random House, 1937.

Featured image: Items from Mika Vainio’s studio in Oslo, selected by Rikke Lundgreen. ‘Mika Vainio: 50 Hz’, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, 2020
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

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Elga Sesemann, Self-Portrait, 1945, oil on canvas, 73cm x 54cm, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Janne Tuominen

Elga Sesemann – A Woman Artist Rediscovered

Anu Utriainen, MA, Senior Researcher, Ateneum Art Museum / Finnish National Gallery

Research project and exhibition at the Ateneum Art Museum (1st floor, 13 Aug–14 Nov 2021)

Elga Sesemann (1922–2007) is one of the post-war women artists who made a remarkable debut in the mid-1940s, but then vanished from the Finnish art scene very soon after that. She has only recently been recognised once again and brought back to the attention of researchers and museum visitors.[1] The aim of the forthcoming exhibition and research project is to study the reasons for this development, as well as to show Sesemann’s original and independent artworks in the context of Finnish post-war modernism.

The role and significance of women in the Finnish art scene has been a subject of study in art history for many decades. As a result, numerous creditable publications, academic dissertations and exhibitions have been made about Finnish women artists, teachers and critics from the turn of the 20th century. Due to the pioneering work of professors Riitta Konttinen and Riitta Nikula from the 1980s on, women’s studies became an essential paradigm in art history. This development has made it possible for interdisciplinary researchers to re-evaluate and examine more critically the works of art and careers of women not only as individuals but also in terms of social class, gender and artistic style. In recent years, the research focus has moved on from the turn of the century to the inter- and post-war periods, as there is a growing interest in studying women artists of the first decades of the 20th century. In Finland this was the time of reshaping culture and art for the new independent nation within a modernistic ethos – with an arts scene that seems to have been astonishingly male-dominated.

[1] Sesemann’s works have been included in the exhibitions ‘Urban Encounters’ 2018–2019 and ‘Artists in Ruovesi’ 2019-2020 in the Ateneum Art Museum, ‘State of Mind – Helsinki 1939-45’, 2019-2020 at Helsinki Art Museum HAM and in ‘Täältä tullaan, naistaiteilijat modernin murroksessa’ in Tampere Art Museum 2017. See also corresponding exhibition catalogues.

Featured image: Elga Sesemann, Self-Portrait, 1945, oil on canvas, 73cm x 54cm, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Janne Tuominen

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Call for Research Interns 2021

Finnish National Gallery
Call for Research Interns 2021

The Finnish National Gallery wishes to stimulate new interest in research topics based on its resources and collections and possible forthcoming exhibitions in its three museums. It also wishes to be an active and innovative partner in collaborating with the academic scene in reinforcing humanistic values and the importance of understanding the world and human culture by creating new, meaningful and relevant knowledge.

For this purpose the Finnish National Gallery organises a research internship programme for master’s-level art or cultural history students internationally.

The programme has two aims. The Finnish National Gallery wishes to enhance the study of its collections including artworks, archives, and objects. At the same time it wishes to support students who choose to write their master’s level theses on subjects based on physical collections and objects, archive material and data and develop their practical skills for utilising archival material in research.

In 2021 the Finnish National Gallery is prepared to receive three research interns.

The internship period is three months with the intern under contract to the Finnish National Gallery. The salary is equivalent to the salary of university trainees.

The intern chooses in advance the material of the Finnish National Gallery collections that he/she wishes to study, and agrees on studying it during the internship period. It is desirable that the material will form part of the intern’s thesis. The intern is required, during the period of their internship, to write a text in English, based on the material and the research done at the National Gallery. The text may be published in one of the sections of the FNG Research web magazine.

Each intern will have an in-house professional tutor at the Finnish National Gallery. The tutor and the intern will meet on average weekly.

The Finnish National Gallery is not responsible for the academic supervision of the intern’s master’s thesis. The role of the National Gallery is to support the intern’s skills in collections research practices.

Are you interested? If so, please send your application by e-mail to fngr@nationalgallery.fi or by post to FNG Research, Senior Researcher Hanna-Leena Paloposki, Kaivokatu 2, 00100 Helsinki, Finland.

Applications can be written in English, Finnish or Swedish.

The deadline for applications is 16 November 2020 and the appointments will be announced by 15 December 2020.

The interns are appointed by the FNG Research editorial board.

For more information about the application process and programme, please click on the link below:

How to apply for the research internship programme at the Finnish National Gallery for master’s-level art and cultural history students >>

Adaptation of Rembrandt van Rijn’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp. Featuring members of Turku Artists’ Association from left Hannes Siivonen, Ilmari Kaijala, Aarre Aaltonen, Kalle Rautiainen, Yrjö Liipola, Jussi Vikainen, Einari Wehmas and Otto Mäkilä. The cadaver is Johan Dielhardt. The boy at left is possibly Heikki Liipola, probably 1932. Photograph: probably by Atelier Alppila. Collection of Archived Photo Prints. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery

Editorial: Inspirational Artworks

Hanna-Leena Paloposki, PhD, Senior Researcher, Finnish National Gallery

 

23 July 2020

 

The extraordinary situation we faced this spring with the Covid-19 virus and the subsequent lockdown prompted many interesting art-related phenomena on the web, among them the amusing challenge to the general public to restage famous artworks in their homes. People used their imaginations to set the scenes and role-play the figures in real-life artworks, then posted myriad images of the real artworks alongside their ‘art selfies’ on social media. This quarantine art challenge brings to mind, quite naturally, the tableaux vivants tradition that was flourishing in the 19th century and has survived to some extent up to today. As people around the world chose their favourites among the well-known – iconic – artworks, it would be interesting to know which ones inspired people most, both internationally and in Finland. What are the most iconic artworks today? I do hope somebody is already studying that.

Another kind of look to inspiration and iconic works is the Ateneum Art Museum’s current exhibition, which opened a couple of weeks after the museums in Finland were allowed to reopen at the beginning of June. ‘Inspiration – Contemporary Art & Classicspresents art that draws inspiration from iconic masterpieces, created by contemporary artists. These include internationally known artists, like Marina Abramović, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Nancy Fouts, Ola Kolehmainen, Yinka Shonibare CBE, Jeff Koons, Sara Masüger and Joseph Kosuth. The exhibition was first on show at the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, but only for a month because of the lockdown, and now it is on display with slightly modified contents at the Ateneum.

The canon of iconic masterpieces varies in different times, but there seem to be artists and artworks that have maintained this status for a long period, some of them since Giorgio Vasari published his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects, in 1550. Italian Renaissance art still comes very high on the list, as does Dutch Golden Age art with Rembrandt at the top. Besides the contemporary artworks that are inspired by these masters, the exhibition at the Ateneum features works from the historical collection of copies at the Finnish National Gallery. These include copies of works by European masters, created, for example, by Magnus Enckell and Helene Schjerfbeck, which reveal to us what was appreciated at the turn of the 19th century.

At the Ateneum show, there are also 10 display cases highlighting the exhibition theme via the archive and library collections of the Finnish National Gallery. These were curated by an expert team working in the Archive and Library Unit at the FNG, and I had the pleasure of being a member of this team. I find this element an essential part of the exhibition (although, I admit, I may not be objective in this matter, having worked for a long time with the archive collections). The material goes back to the foundation in 1846 of the precursor to the FNG, the Finnish Art Society, and to the construction of the Ateneum building in the 1880s with its façade programme representing the iconic artists and architects. It covers themes like the role of copies both in art studies and in the collections, the importance of photographs documenting historical works for artists and art education before the time of the internet, the art history books promoting the iconic status of artworks and museums, and naturally iconic artists, too. There are handwritten documents, from letters to inventory lists, a wide range of photographic material, and art history books and picture portfolios on display. The archival material is indispensable for art history research, that is obvious, but our exhibition once again proves how this kind of material can widen the context of the subject for those who want to deepen their knowledge. The ‘Inspiration’ exhibition is a dialogue between history and contemporary art at its best.

In this issue of the FNG Research we take a look at the theme and research behind the ‘Inspiration exhibition’ from two angles. Gill Crabbe talks about them with one of the main curators of the exhibition, Susanna Pettersson, former Director of the Ateneum Art Museum and now Director General of the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, but also a researcher and museum historian herself. Besides that we republish two excellent articles from the exhibition catalogue. Michaela Giebelhausen, from Central St Martins, London, writes in her article ‘Page, Canvas, Wall: Visualising the History of Art’ about ‘how the history of art, embodied in art-historical canons, schools, periods, and aesthetic standards, has been conceptualised through writing, the organisation of collections, and the decoration of new museum buildings’. In his article ‘1842 – The Art History of Handbooks and Anachronic Icons’ Dan Karlholm, art history professor at Södertörn University, Stockholm, discusses two buildings that were commissioned to express the German spirit and Germanness – the Walhalla and Cologne Cathedral – and how they are actually both anachronic and contemporary, mixing different historical styles and elements.

In this issue FNG Research proudly continues its commitment to publish new research as peer-reviewed articles. In Dr Ari Tanhuanpää’s article, a totally different kind of approach to an artwork or its existence is offered, through discussing Jacques Derrida’s quasi-concept the reste and the neologism he derived from it, restance. The article consists of Tanhuanpää’s reading of an essay by Derrida entitled Athens, Still Remains (2010) (Demeure, Athènes, 2009), which the philosopher wrote to accompany photographs taken by Jean-François Bonhomme in Athens. In his article, Tanhuanpää’s starting point, however, is a tiny painting in the FNG collections at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, depicting a dancer, which has a great deal of its paint missing. Tanhuanpää suggests that the painting’s mode of being is not subsistence, but rather restance. When looking at the painting we are actually standing before the reste.

Let’s get back to the earlier and contemporary modes of making tableaux vivants: in the ‘Inspiration’ exhibition, in one of the showcases, there is a photograph from the FNG Collection of Archived Photo Prints featuring members of Turku Artists’ Association, taken probably in 1932. The artists are copying a very famous and iconic artwork – see the picture above this editorial.

With the current issue of FNG Research I wish you all a very inspirational summer.

Featured image: Adaptation of Rembrandt van Rijn’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp. Featuring members of Turku Artists’ Association from left Hannes Siivonen, Ilmari Kaijala, Aarre Aaltonen, Kalle Rautiainen, Yrjö Liipola, Jussi Vikainen, Einari Wehmas and Otto Mäkilä. The cadaver is Johan Dielhardt. The boy on the left is possibly Heikki Liipola, probably 1932.
Photograph: probably by Atelier Alppila.
Collection of Archived Photo Prints. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery

Magnus Enckell, Angel (detail copy after Leonardo da Vinci’s painting Annunciation), 1895, oil on canvas, 100cm x 100cm State Copy Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen

Making Art’s Milestones

Gill Crabbe, FNG Research

Reimagining iconic artworks from the past has been a continuous thread in creating the story of art. Director General of the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, Susanna Pettersson, discusses with Gill Crabbe the vision for the exhibition on iconic artworks she has curated, which travels from Stockholm to Helsinki this summer, and how this wide-ranging thematic show was put together

What turns an artwork into an iconic artwork? Who defines a work as iconic, and how does such status evolve, endure or dissolve over time? These are questions that have distilled in the mind of Susanna Pettersson since she started out as a doctoral student in the 1990s studying the history of museums and their collections; questions that matured over the decades as her career path took her from curator to Director General of the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki, and now Director-general of Sweden’s Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, to bear fruit in the exhibition ‘Inspiration – Contemporary Art & Classics’.

Nowadays it is acknowledged that these are questions that can only be partly answered, through offering perspectives made conscious in a given place and time. But when the era of establishing museums began in Europe in the 19th century the (his)story of art was instilled with definite parameters, parameters that determined the art-historical canon and persisted in such a way that it is only relatively recently that they are being challenged, reinterpreted, and augmented.

‘It really started all those years ago in London when I sat in National Art Library of the V&A, reading old publications describing what was appreciated in early 19th-century art, with their clear detailed recommendations as what to keep in mind when travelling in Dresden, Berlin, Munich etc. So this research laid the ground for the conception of this exhibition,’ says Pettersson.

In putting together an exhibition on such a vast theme, the task facing the curators of presenting material that can be approached on many levels by a diverse audience, from the interested ‘general public’ to the artistic and academic community, was a complex one. ‘Inspiration – Contemporary Art & Classics’ achieves this in a number of ways: through mapping the key museums emerging in Europe in the 19th century, analysing their collections and the criteria for acquisitions, and tracing their influences on other museums, such as the Ateneum Art Museum itself; through pairing iconic art-historical works with contemporary artists’ reinterpretations of their themes; and through commissioning new works by contemporary artists to underline key ideas in the exhibition. An accompanying catalogue broadens out the contextual research, with essays by a range of international experts, and focus interviews spotlight specific contemporary artists in the show.

Featured image: Magnus Enckell, Angel (detail copy after Leonardo da Vinci’s painting Annunciation), 1895, oil on canvas, 100cm x 100cm. State Copy Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen
Public domain. This image of a work of art is released under a CC0 licence, and can be freely used because the copyright (70 full calendar years after the death of the artist) has expired.

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Christian von Mechel, The Electoral Picture Gallery at Düsseldorf: Paintings on One of the Walls in the First Gallery, 1775, engraving, 21.3cm x 25.8cm Wellcome Library, London Photo: Wellcome Collection. CC BY 4.0

Page, Canvas, Wall: Visualising the History of Art

Michaela Giebelhausen, PhD, Course Leader, BA Culture, Criticism and Curation, Central St Martins, University of the Arts, London

Also published in Susanna Pettersson (ed.), Inspiration – Iconic Works. Ateneum Publications Vol. 132. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, 2020, 31–45

In 1909, the Italian poet and founder of the Futurist movement, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti famously declared, ‘[w]e will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind’.[1] He compared museums to cemeteries, ‘[i]dentical, surely, in the sinister promiscuity of so many bodies unknown to one another… where one lies forever beside hated or unknown beings’. This comparison of the museum with the cemetery has often been cited as an indication of the Futurists’ radical rejection of traditional institutions. It certainly made these institutions look dead. With habitual hyperbole Marinetti claimed: ‘We stand on the last promontory of the centuries!… Why should we look back […]? Time and Space died yesterday.’ The brutal breathlessness of Futurist thinking rejected all notions of a history of art.

This essay considers how the history of art, embodied in art-historical canons, schools, periods, and aesthetic standards, has been conceptualised through writing, the organisation of collections, and the decoration of new museum buildings. It examines some of the moments in which the page, the canvas and the wall offer seminal and selective visualisations of the history of art and deploy notions of time and space that are complex and contradictory, and far from dead.

[1] Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. ‘Manifesto of Futurism’, in Charles Harrison and Paul Wood (eds.), Art in Theory: 1900–1990. Oxford UK and Cambridge US: Blackwell Publishers, 1992, 145–47.

Featured image: Christian von Mechel, The Electoral Picture Gallery at Düsseldorf: Paintings on One of the Walls in the First Gallery, 1775, engraving, 21.3cm x 25.8cm. Wellcome Library, London
Photo: Wellcome Collection. CC BY 4.0

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Leo von Klenze (1784–1864), View of the Walhalla Overlooking Donaustauf and Regensburg, 1830, watercolour and pencil on paper, 20.8cm x 29.2 cm Hamburger Kunsthalle Photo: © bpk / Hamburger Kunsthalle / Christoph Irrgang

1842 – The Art History of Handbooks and Anachronic Icons

Dan Karlholm, Professor of Art History, Södertörn University, Stockholm

Also published in Susanna Pettersson (ed.), Inspiration – Iconic Works. Ateneum Publications Vol. 132. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, 2020. Transl. Bettina Schultz, 87–96

On 18 October 1842 the Greek temple high above the Bavarian river bed was completed. Floating by on the Danube you can lift your gaze and see what looks like a sparkling white version of the Parthenon temple on the Acropolis in Athens. The aim of Ludwig I of Bavaria in having it built was to create a worthy space for the German spirit, founded on the German-speaking countries’ linguistic community in the wake of the humiliating war against France. Its architect Leo von Klenze (1784–1864), who also designed the Glyptothek and Alte Pinakothek in Munich, wanted to let the outer grandeur of this monument, this Walhalla outside Regensburg, mirror its inner, spiritual greatness[1] – Doric temple on the outside, the home of the Old Norse gods by name, and on the inside a memorial dedicated to German intellectuals. Initially, around 170 neoclassical marble busts lined the walls but the number has increased over time and continues to increase.[2] A monument, memorial, heathen temple, as well as a kind of deifying museum for dead white Germans. The reason why this ‘hall of fame’ was received with mixed feelings was probably above all aesthetic. Something felt wrong with this pastiche, even for many of those who believed that the Germanic spirit was based on the Greek. Its topicality can, however, be described as ‘historical’, which the painter Wilhelm von Kaulbach sometime later described as the only ‘contemporary’.[3] For the budding art historians, however, the monument was a challenge to the newly established explanatory model that proclaimed that art is a symbiosis between content and form, time and place, spirit and materiality.

[1] Leo von Klenze. Walhalla in artistischer und technischer Beziehung. München: Literarisch-artistische Anstalt, 1842.

[2] Adrian von Buttlar. Leo von Klenze: Leben – Werk – Vision. München: Beck, 1999, 140–64.

[3] See Dan Karlholm. Art of Illusion: The Representation of Art History in Nineteenth-Century Germany and Beyond. Bern: Peter Lang, 2004, chap. 4.

Featured image: Leo von Klenze, View of the Walhalla Overlooking Donaustauf and Regensburg, 1830, watercolour and pencil on paper, 20.8cm x 29.2cm.
Hamburger Kunsthalle
Photo: © bpk / Hamburger Kunsthalle / Christoph Irrgang

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Unknown artist, Dancers I–IV, oil on canvas Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Henri Tuomi and Hannu Pakarinen

Peer-Reviewed Article: Res(is)tance of Remains

Ari Tanhuanpää, PhD, Senior Conservator, Finnish National Gallery

On the reste that is not but which nonetheless remains

In this article, my aim is to approach the artwork’s being, taking as my starting point Jacques Derrida’s quasi-concept the reste (remains), and the neologism he derived from it, restance – especially as he discusses them in a number of his works. The essay consists of my reading of Derrida’s essay Athens, Still Remains (2010) (Demeure, Athènes, 2009)[1], which Derrida wrote to accompany the photographs Jean-François Bonhomme had taken in Athens. But, to start, let us take a look at a modest, unsigned painting lying in storage at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum: a tiny painting from a series of four, depicting a dancer. A great deal of its paint has fallen off, which gives it a certain charm. It is as if the dancer is dancing in the middle of the ruins – or is it, rather, that she remains motionless while the blanks around her dance? This is a strange pas de deux. One has the impression she is just about to disappear, any time now.[2] But the dancer seems to resist her total disappearance, just as the painting, even in its present, pitifully fragile and fragmentary state, as I claim, resists its complete downfall. I would like to suggest that both the dancer’s and the painting’s mode of being is not subsistence but rather restance – or, to use another word Derrida was fond of: demeurance/demourance (‘abidance’).[3] In its current condition, the painting could be described as a ruin – however, it must be emphasised that it is not a reste, as the reste is not, whereas the artwork as a physical artefact undeniably is.

[1] Jacques Derrida. Athens, Still Remains. Trans. Pascale-Anne Brault & Michael Naas. New York: Fordham University Press, 2010, originally published as Demeure, Athènes. Paris: Éditions Galilée, 2009 [1996]. Perhaps the most notable early occurrence of remain(s) in Derrida’s oeuvre is Glas – according to Charles Ramond, the ‘quasi-totality of Glas, from the first line, can be considered as a meditation on the remain(s)’. Derrida begins this book with a quote from Jean Genet: ‘what remained of a Rembrandt torn into small, very regular squares and rammed down the shithole.’ Jacques Derrida. Glas. Trans. John P. Leavey & Richard Rand. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1986 [1974], 1; Charles Ramond. Dictionnaire Derrida. Paris: Ellipses Édition, 2016, 200.

[2] Georges Didi-Huberman has referred to somewhat similar phenomena using the term aperçue (a feminine past participle of aperçevoir, French for ‘to perceive’), see Georges Didi-Huberman. Aperçues. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 2018.

[3] Generally, le reste has been translated into English as ‘remains’, ‘remainder’, ‘remnant’, or ‘residue’, sometimes also as ‘rest’. Restance, in turn, has been translated as ‘remainder’, ‘remaindering’, or ‘remaining’. Derrida once said that he ‘cannot say whether or not remainder, by itself, adequately translates restance, but it matters little since no single word, out of context, can by itself ever translate another word perfectly’. Jacques Derrida. ‘Limited Inc a b c’. Trans. Samuel Weber, in Limited Inc. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1988 [1977], 52; Jacques Derrida. Given Time: I. Counterfeit Money. Trans. Peggy Kamuf. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1992 [1991]. For Derrida on translation as a whole, see his ‘Des Tours de Babel’. Trans. Josef F. Graham, in Difference in Translation. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1985, 165–207.

Featured image: Unknown artist, Dancers I–IV, oil on canvas, 19cm x 13cm.
Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Henri Tuomi and Hannu Pakarinen

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Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen

Editorial: Living in the Material World

Marja Sakari, PhD, Museum Director, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki

 

25 March 2020

 

As I sit down to write this Editorial, the museums in Finland have been closed for more than two months. In this challenging situation, continuity also offers some consolation, the fact that everything continues despite the Covid-19 virus. At this time there is also light at the end of the tunnel, and the museums are scheduled to reopen at the beginning of June, following the decree of the Finnish government.

There is a basic need in people to see beautiful and thought-provoking things in time and space, as a bodily experience – and that is exactly what museums can offer. The digital is only a substitute.

The third issue of FNG Research we publish this year is in this sense special. The articles in this edition are, as if by accident, all related to the effect of the physical aspects in art works. They all underline the importance of materiality and the use of physical means in visual art works: a sense of materiality, the use of tactile surfaces and colours in art.

In an interview by Gill Crabbe, Hanne Tikkala, who is funded as a research assistant at FNG’s materials research laboratory to undertake research for her doctoral dissertation, discusses the use of different colours by the iconic figure in Finnish ‘Golden Age’ art, namely that of Akseli Gallen-Kallela. Forgeries of his works have been circulating in abundance, even during his lifetime, which makes this research of utmost importance to the contemporary art world and art market. The research is based on a conservation project that started in 2017. FNG’s Senior Conservation Scientist Seppo Hornytzkyj, together with Tikkala, have been conducting an extensive analysis of the pigments Gallen-Kallela used, selecting works spanning his entire career, from 1880 until 1929. The research shows, among other things, that Gallen-Kallela always tried to use high-quality pigments that retain their colour, which is difficult to imitate.

The two other articles in this issue have been published in the exhibition catalogue of Silent Beauty – Nordic and East Asian Interaction, and the exhibition is currently on show in Stockholm, in the Prins Eugen’s Waldemarsudde museum until 16 August 2020.

In her article, ‘Sense of Materiality, Simplification and Ascetic Minimalism’, Anne-Marie Pennonen is underlining the importance of simplification and the sense of materiality in art in the period following the two World Wars. The style also became an ideological and ethical question for many artists of that time, as they combined spirituality with social idealism. As Pennonen states: ‘The importance of hand-made objects and the use of natural materials were also emphasised.’

In Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff’s article ‘A Changing Landscape’, the poetical and ideological aspects are underlined in Finnish landscape painting during the 20th century: ‘Landscapes were associated with poetry, purification and heightened emotional states’, she writes. The industrialisation of Europe prompted many artists to think about the possibilities of using landscape painting as a manifestation and expression of more spiritual ideas and that was achieved through, among other things, the deployment of colour. The ideal of simplicity too evoked parallels with music and spiritual life. A very Asian notion of emptiness and space was also emphasised.

During this period of the Covid-19 pandemic, when everybody is confined to their homes, the meaning of culture and intellectual activity becomes even more important than before. It is a question of connecting with others. Art plays an important part in bringing humanistic ways of thinking to the fore. This is something we all need – and we need it right now.

Featured image: The banner on the facade of the Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki, during the closure of the museum in spring 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The text says: ‘Art is waiting until we meet again.’
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen