Anna Rapinoja, Autumn Party Shoes, 2010, made from northern bilberry leaves, from the series ‘Wardrobe of Nature’, 2005–11, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen.

Physical Phenomena and Natural Materials – The Challenges in Collection Management

Eija Aarnio, Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Finnish National Gallery

First published in Kiasma Hits. Kiasma Collections. A Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma Publication 139/2013. Edited by Arja Miller & Joni Kling. Helsinki 2013: Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, 60–71. Transl. Tomi Snellman

Art research has not always placed a particularly high value on materiality. Matter was seen primarily as a substratum through which meanings were read. However, the separation of matter and idea is no longer considered a realistic approach in the understanding of the processes of art. Art historian Katve-Kaisa Kontturi even claims that no image or representation can be interpreted or would even exist without the material-bodily processes of art making and reception.[1]

Anni Rapinoja’s Wardrobe of Nature (2005–11) consists of hats and handbags made of cotton grass and common reed, complete with sumptuous fur coats and matching shoes made of willow or northern bilberry leaves. Peering into the handbag, you find it is filled with elk droppings. Rapinoja lives on the island of Hailuoto in Oulu, where she collects these sensitive materials for her work. The inhabitants of the island know her and her working methods. Hunters are in the habit of bringing her the ears and tails of rabbits they have caught, which the artist keeps in cake boxes while she waits for inspiration.

Timo Heino’s Dialogue (2005) is made of synthetic and organic elements – car tyres, metal chains and human hair. With hair cascading towards the floor from their centres, the rubber tyres are like a row of chandeliers hanging at different heights. Processing has transformed real hair into an almost unnatural substance. The threadbare tyres are recycled material. The artist wants to blur the aesthetic of materials and the narrow categorisations and rigid oppositions typical of Western culture.

[1] In her study, Katve-Kaisa Kontturi emphasises a neo-materialist approach in which a bodily experience of art can also be part of critical research. Katve-Kaisa Kontturi, Following the flows of process: a new materialist account of contemporary art, University of Turku, Turku, 2012, 22–24.

Featured image: Anna Rapinoja, Autumn Party Shoes, 2010, made from northern bilberry leaves, from the series ‘Wardrobe of Nature’, 2005–11, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

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Heli Rekula, Skein, 2000, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Petri Virtanen.

From Monitor to Gallery Space – Spatialisation of the Moving Image in Finnish Video Art in the 1990s

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

One of the main trends in both the video art and photography of the 1990s is related to spatial works of art rapidly becoming more common in both domestic and international contemporary art. In video art, the projected and multi-screen video installation quickly replaced earlier sculptural video installation art, which still depended on monitors as the image source. In the video art of the 1990s, the partner in dialogue was more often cinema rather than television, and the emphasis shifted from the political video art of the 1970s, which had used TV aesthetics, to more experiential video art that returned to cinema aesthetics (Iles 2003; Kotz 2005/2008). In the late 1980s and early 1990s, photography turned to installation’s new ways of presenting and interpreting in an effort to break away from the documentary tradition, and to pursue the fine art dimension of photography in particular (Rinne 1997, 11; Elovirta 1999, 199–201).

The new spatial trends in the field of art soon also inspired various attempts to compartmentalize and define the new spatial forms of expression in both moving image and photography. At the turn of the millennium, terms such as gallery film, used in Anglo-American discourse, and cinéma d’exposition (cinema of exhibition), based on French research, established their presence in the discourse on spatial forms of the moving image, while in photography, the discussion was situated somewhere between the points of fine art photography and fine arts. In Finland, these fields had only just started to move towards one another at the beginning of the 1990s. The outbreak of photography into space mainly took place through conceptual art, when the photograph – no longer merely a pure aesthetic object, but now a part of a process – broke out of its frame, expanding the traditional boundaries of the medium and seeking to find new ways and forms for the expression traditionally imposed on it (Hietaharju 1992). Later, photography also showed signs of moving towards cinematic representation in the works of significant photographers of the 1990s such as Jeff Wall and Andreas Gursky. One of that decade’s central phenomena in photography became the monumental ‘cinematic tableaux’, which, in art-historian Liz Kotz’s opinion, brought together the high culture aspirations of painting and the pop culture appeal of Hollywood (Kotz 2005, 105).

This development started around the same time in both art forms; however, in photography, it withered quickly. In Finnish art large-scale projected video installations – often in multi-screen format – had great exposure at the turn of the millennium in both domestic and international exhibitions, and were often accompanied by Finnish photography. The significant difference was, however, that coming into the new millennium, photography abandoned installations and ‘returned to the walls’. Director of the Finnish Museum of Photography Elina Heikka sees signs of ‘business economic rationality’ in this development, which, in the internationalization of the art world, shuns the more experimental forms of art and favours easily movable pieces that can be placed in different kinds of spaces (Heikka 2004).

Featured image: Heli Rekula, Skein, 2000, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Petri Virtanen

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