intro and edit by kaitlyn d. hamilton

As I traveled westward across the country from Joutsa to Turku, I realized it was the first time I had been away from TUO TUO since we started the project almost four years ago. Thinking backwards has always been an unreal task, but time has taken on a new level of dysphoria since the pandemic. Which is also why the timeline of Solar Noon gave such a warped and sprawling feeling. Once I arrived in Taattisten tila it felt impossible to reconcile. “It’s so good to finally meet you” was how I greeted most of the artists onsite. And it was true. We joked that this must be one of the last projects derailed by the pandemic to finally manifest. But I’m so grateful and thrilled that it did. Solar Noon accomplishes what few exhibitions can though they often claim to: Its aliveness leaves you feeling struck, warped and perhaps a bit dazed – your sense of time and space muzzy – as if freshly awoken from a dream that took years.

It was an absolute pleasure to be involved in the realisation of Solar Noon, working with curator Riikka Thitz of i dolci was a joy, as was spending time with the artists and getting to talk about their work. Below are snippets of our conversations where we reflect on their process and thinking behind the artworks.

Elina Vainio Amass; photograph by Aukusti Heinonen Elina Vainio - Amass,  photograph by Aukusti Heinonen

Of all the artworks in the exhibition, Amass exudes the most mystery. “What is it?” one surely asks themself as they hover above the gleaming body. Is it an unknown creature from the deep sea? An alien’s chrysalid shell? Prehistoric fossilised remains? The sculpture reminds me of a mineral formation from the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc Cave. Similar to a limestone stalactite, your waxen sculpture was formed drip by drip.

I’d like to ask you about your experience during the slow, durational process of making; the effect it had on your body, your daily rhythms and your perception of time.

ELINA VAINIO: I've been on those same associative paths myself when slowly figuring out its shape and character through thousands and thousands of dips into the hot beeswax. During the process of making I was intuitively responding to what I felt needed enhancing; a certain elongated slenderness, while melting away of the easily forming claw-like bulkiness. I wanted the pale greyish lilac to feel alienating as only some deep sea organisms, mushrooms or subsurface molds bear that colour.

When I was making some small test pieces my elbow developed a strain injury, so I knew I needed some kind of a pulley system to ease the process and the weight load. Once the wax is hot it makes sense to put in long working hours because it fixes itself more firmly onto a warm surface instead of an already cooled down one. The working process itself resembles ice fishing; quick plunges under the surface and the catch is a small translucent drop that solidifies within seconds. Sometimes the wax is too hot so it adds next to nothing onto the existing mass, sometimes it's too cool resulting in white lines between layers. The constant reading of the material states, the temporal boundaries and the heightened awareness of the gravitational pull made it a consuming process on the body, yet mentally very meditative.

Sometime halfway during making I happened to hear a song by Natural Information Society from their album Since Time is Gravity. This idea of time being gravity is what circled in my thoughts during the steady cycles of dips and drips of the remaining days.

Jaakko Pietiläinen - Mikä nousee ja ei koskaan laske / What goes up and never comes down,  photograph by Aukusti Heinonen

When coming upon your work, and in thinking about repetition and its ties to psychoanalysis – perhaps this trajectory of mine was triggered by the disembodied head – how the "compulsion to repeat" refers to the tendency of a person to expose themself again and again to a distressing or painful situation, and that even the origins of the compulsion get lost. But, then the head is not disembodied after all, it floats! It floats in water, in a pool of its own tears.

When I think of water I think of memory and as I look at your work I wonder: Are there things we might remember that we don’t know? Is it possible to remember in the direction of the future? Your piece cradles these contradictions beautifully: A total hopelessness and infinite relief.

I’m curious to hear more about your relationship to both water and repetition, in your art practice/ living practice and in the body?

It's nice that you brought a psychoanalytical perspective here, because I think it’s within that area the things that are personal for me in this work are to be found. Psychoanalysis has of course been criticised for being an oppressive exercise of hegemonic power, for
being oedipalizing, for its violently narrative logic etc. But even if it is easy to agree with this critique, I have always felt a curious connection to it.

For me repetition is simultaneously a source of joy and suffering: On the one hand, for instance all learning requires repetition and produces great pleasure. Especially in case of learning bodily skills. For me the pleasure of all manual techniques, whether working with ceramics or wood, or playing badminton arises from this repetitive task of training the muscular memory. It is in this state when I feel that I exist as a whole body in a particular place and time, i.e. when I feel truly alive. On the other hand repetition has this flip side: if whittling a piece of wood with a knife produces a state of being truly alive a seemingly similar task of repetitive thumb movement with a smart phone, i.e. scrolling social media produces its exact opposite: A state of being truly dead – a disembodied brain decomposing in the digital soil of cognitive capitalism (or indeed a decapitated head).

What you say about exposing oneself time and again to a distressing situation, up to a point that even the origin of the compulsion is lost sounds profoundly relatable. I tend to think exactly along those lines that repetition is but the major source of significance also the main source of suffering in my life. I can see this play out in my life in at least two ways, one of which is this repetitive exposure you presented: That suffering is relocated from its original source to the repeated exposure to it up until the origin is lost and the repetition itself becomes the source of suffering. (I guess in some cases the origin of suffering is unknown all the time, as is in some classic definitions of trauma.) If this is the structure of anxiety then there is also the second, that of addiction where literally anything that is initially a source of pleasure becomes a source of suffering by virtue of repetition. Sadly our culture enforces both of these forms of compulsive repetition with all
of its power.

So my relation to repetition is deeply ambivalent, but I guess that is the nature of repetition. On the one hand it is the source of life, as is with any kind of reproduction, but on the other hand it seems to be the structural essence of all suffering. It is also interesting what you write about memory and whether it could be directed towards the future. This classic psychoanalytical theme of “what you can’t remember you are forced to repeat” is easily expanded from individual psychology to a structural level: Contemporary capitalism praises itself for being productivist, innovative, wealth producing and what not but it is only capable or producing more of itself.

As it indeed seems that we live in a time that “has no horizon besides an indefinite replication of the future as the present, or a present of returns, predicated on enclosing the future”, as Marina Vishmidt somewhere put it, i.e. an oblivious state of eternal repetition, a real viable planetary future is to be found in the rear mirror instead of the future oriented gaze of capitalism. So respectively perhaps memory is also something future oriented more than a representation of what is gone. At least remembering our dying planet is a task for the future.

The second part of your question deals with water, an element in my sculpture with which I also have an ambivalent personal relation with: At least in bigger amounts water inspires awe at me. I think it is the quintessential sublime material: Its aesthetic appreciation requires distance since without distance you drown in it. My somewhat uneasy relationship with with water is strengthened by a transgenerational trauma. It could be because of these reasons I have not worked with water previously, but I would very much like to in the future.

Minjee Hwang Kim - Sequence,  photograph by Aukusti Heinonen

Time will always be a riddle, everything about our reality
and existence is exposed to temporality. What we might (never) discover about time seems to be as infinite as a moment itself and as
small as the memory of the universe. These were the halls my mind was wandering while standing before your piece: Sequence. The artwork is also
a testament to the artists’ role as the witness, which I see as a sort of
cosmic duty or magical power.

And in thinking about magic, I have to say I’ve really enjoyed reading about the 90s Japanese manga series that served as an inspiration to your piece. For those who don’t know, Cardcaptor Sakura was written and illustrated by the beloved manga artist collective CLAMP. The story centers on Sakura, a young student who accidentally frees the set of Clow Cards which grant different magical powers, only to be activated by someone with inherent magical abilities.

I’d love to hear about your own connection to the idea of magic or magical powers in relation to your art-making practice. Or, how you feel about the process of creating or channeling a new artwork: can accidents become magical? Do latent capabilities begin to stir?

First, I want to explain a bit more about the mahou shoujo genre (in Korean: 마법소녀), also known as the "magical girl" genre. In this genre, young girls transform into their alter egos to fight evil and save the world. However, the magical girls themselves are seldom special. Most protagonists are depicted as underachieving students, as well as extremely clumsy. But they still manage to save the day with their good hearts and the help of others.

In mahou shoujo, magic is an integral part of one's character, and there are tasks only the magical ones can (and in many cases, reluctantly) do, such as only Sakura being able to seal/summon Clow Cards, but that is pretty much it. Their magical abilities do not define their entire existence.

I love art, but I don't view art-making as something too special. Sakura's magic power doesn't make her a braver person. Being an artist is a significant part of my identity, but it hardly affects my essence as a person. I make art because it's what I can do, and while I'm at it, I prefer to try my best and do it well. I guess my approach to magical power and art-making is quite a matter-of-fact. Sakura, with magical abilities, became a card captor. I, with drawing abilities, became an artist. However, this approach to the art-making process can also be because I am too familiar with the behind-the-scenes of art-making, such as budget and studio space.

In mahou shoujo, magic is not solely limited to supernatural powers. Magic often represents miracles, such as finding that special someone who can make the world a more bearable place. The Korean opening of Cardcaptor Sakura, which inspired the creation of Sequence, sings, "If there is magic, that's the reason why this world is beautiful." Similarly, the opening theme of Sailor Moon states, "Among countless stars, the chance to meet you can never be a coincidence, but a miracle."

For me, magic is more akin to miracles than supernatural abilities. I believe in these miracles, particularly in the context of Buddhism, where even the smallest encounters are seen as destined through karma.

Lately, I've been going through my old drawings and notes. They were created at various times and for different reasons, seemingly unrelated. However, as I reflect on these years' worth of scribbles, I can somewhat perceive how they unconsciously guided me towards the moment of making Sequence (or any other work). The circumstances aligned within my mind, and then, one day, they materialized into something tangible. I can't think of anything more magical than this.

Liisa-Irmelen Liwata - Maisemissa I & II,  photograph by Aukusti Heinonen

Over the past year, I’ve found myself repeating this phrase: “I’ve spent so much time becoming a place that I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be a person,” I have to tell you that your Maisemissa artworks resonate deeply with me. I’m curious to hear more about your own experience merging with place, or your experience witnessing this transformation in others or in life.

As a tangential question, I’m curious if you’re familiar with the concept of timelines, the idea that reality is constantly collapsing and reforming around us every second; that there are endless possibilities or versions of ourselves and our experiences and our lived trajectories?

LIISA-IRMELEN LIWATA: My initial thoughts have been circling around what does it mean to belong to a place? I’ve been thinking about the ownership relation humans have towards land which stems from a colonial and anthropocentric history. I see these works in Solar Noon having continuity with my earlier works in which I have been thinking about nationalities from my personal experience, such as, how does one’s nationality on paper correlate to their national experience. It has made me question the national boundaries marked on the map, which determines how nationalities are talked about in general. For example, a person I know doesn’t have any nationality at the moment because the nation they were born in no longer exists. The land they grew up on is the same, but because the borderline has changed its place – they are now an outsider.

I wonder how does the concept of owning land affect our relationship to nature? The works title Maisemissa translates from finnish to “being around” and “being in landscapes”, being both present and somewhere in nature. In these works I see the concept of timelines manifesting in the idea of the circulation of life. Through decay, one’s particles can rearrange in a mosaic way merging with the existing surroundings. Being in this constant flux where our small particles are scattered everywhere, forever participating in the birth of new life.

I would like to indicate that it might be that we belong to the place more than the place belongs to us.

Venla Helenius & Milka Luhtaniemi - Kuulokuu / Hearing Moon,  photograph by Aukusti Heinonen

Now that I am in my seventh summer this far North, your artwork, Hearing Moon connects in such a distinct way. The piece is sooo satisfying! It communicates this unspeakable desire to hold onto the total length of a summer’s day, to spread it out after unrolling or unraveling it, to exhibit its density.

When I think of the Moon I consider its erratic nature as the fastest moving celestial body among our planets. Each
of its phases last for only an instant. To
the naked eye, the full moon lasts about three days, but in reality, it is a full moon for just an instant before it begins to wane.
It’s how summers feel, and yet the
memory of the long day lasts.

Michel Serres writes in The Five Senses:
A Philosophy of Mingled Bodies:

“Hearing practices ubiquity, the almost divine power of universal reach…” – I’m curious to hear more about how sight & sound/ looking & listening affect each other within your artistic practice generally, as well as your collaborative process and the process behind this artwork.

MILKA LUHTANIEMI: I have been reading phenomenology of sound and hearing (in particular Salome Voegelin's work) in relation to my recent writing. I think how I understand hearing is that it's a reaching towards something, across spatial and bodily boundaries. In summer everything is so acoustic. One can hear a sound which is across the lake. Maybe one could even extend the reach all the way toward the Moon? I feel that especially summer feels expansive, it has extensibility which is different than in winter.  

VENLA HELENIUS: We also considered this act of reaching and extending towards (something) as something that would make boundaries between photography and text more fluid. It was also inspiring for us to think about hearing and sound in relation to photography, which is a medium that operates with the gaze. We were interested in taking photos where there was a lot of movement (meaning sound) and a lot of trajectories.

MILKA: Also my intention as a writer was to write text that was fluidly oscillating between all senses and would also touch (also an important verb for me) non-human bodies.

VENLA: During our days of taking photos there was a full Moon, but we were unable to see the Moon as it was rising so late at night. Even though the Moon wasn’t there, it made us schedule our work according to its fluctuations.

MILKA: I wanted to write a text in which things would dissolve, it’s one of the nicest poetic tensions for me. We were also working with dissolution in the images, as we had an ear made out of clay that we dissolved into the water. So in the text a shout dissolves into the landscape, and the text becomes just letters a o. They are handwritten, fleeing from the typographic text.

VENLA: The theme of dissolution was also present in the photos. I used a long exposure time that made the object become almost invisible.

I was interested in photographic series. The photos would present a series of events but between the photos time would stretch and intensify. We were talking about the relation between image and text all the time. The words also hold a possibility to extend the temporality of the image even more. We wanted to make the work resemble a film roll or a book which is spread out, so we could keep the moment continuing into infinity. That way we could come back into finiteness.

Laura Jantunen - ~ ,  photograph by Aukusti Heinonen

First, I just want to say I think it’s actually
quite nice to talk to you about your work as a viewer who is non-Finnish-speaking. I sometimes forget how strange and easily (if not unreliably) poetic my reality has become since living in Finland, being that I don’t understand much or speak the language. I think this has its own unique advantages to experiencing art.

As I moved through the Taattisten barn-turned-gallery, your ryijy were there to guide me – like the whisper of imagination from my childhood, or the spectral voices of a place. These faint whispers from your ryijy beckoned me up the stairs, around corners, through doorways and they directed my attention in surprising ways. What becomes visible through your work are the many stories hanging all around us.

I’m curious as to how you were guided by the ryijy – during the process of creation, in your collaboration with Milka, and also as you selected quite sensitively where each piece would hang for this

I created the yellow piece first, already in 2019; the works were originally exhibited in an exhibition called Keltanen at Titanik in Turku. During the exhibition I also performed a dance piece. While making the performance, Milka was my dramaturg and she ended up writing a leaflet of poems. The poems were partly inspired by our conversations as well as I had given her some bits of text I had collected while working on the dance performance. Some of these texts were from a book about quantum physics that was written by a philosopher/physicist. I couldn’t really comprehend most of the book, because I don’t really even understand the basics of quantum physics, but still, the book got me thinking about spaces, time, emptiness and entropy. I love that some of these quotations I picked up are now visible in the poems Milka wrote where they talk about in-between spaces or the importance of a space in general. Especially with the ryijy installed close to Milka and Venla’s work, in that ryijy I played with the text by deleting the very important space between words while the poem in the ryijy itself says freely translated “even emptiness has a place in this world”. This is my way of playing or choreographing with a poem someone else wrote and making it more of my own or reinterpreting it. I can not write poems myself, and if I could they wouldn’t be near as beautiful as the way Milka writes. But in many ways her poems really speak to me and the way I see the world, so in that sense it was nice to play with someone else’s words.

Because most of the ryijy in the exhibition were finished several years ago, my relationship to them has also shifted. As an artist I’ve of course developed, studied more and my thinking has changed. I’ve moved away from ryijy a bit and now that I’m working as a choreographer more. So, I approached this exhibition as an outsider of my own work in a way. When we first visited Taattinen, my choreographer brain stepped in and I wanted the works to be scattered, partially hidden or in-between things in the space.

Now I have these expensive artworks which are very time-consuming to create; so what does it mean to hang it in a space where wildlife could damage the piece, or to hang it in a storage space which is less visible or more off to the side? Does it devalue the artwork or make us think of it differently in terms of artfulness or craftsmanship? We could get into a whole discussion about defining art separate from craft and the history there, but that’s another story.

We also decided with Milka not to translate the text of the ryijy for the exhibition. Personally, I would feel so weird translating poetry because I’m neither a poet nor a translator. It felt more respectful to the poems and the works as a whole not to interfere. Sometimes when I read a translation it distances me from the actual artwork, because now I’m thinking more about the piece of paper where the translation is rather than the artwork. For the non-Finnish-speaking visitors who come to the exhibition, I hope they’ll either have someone with them who can translate, or that they’ll just take in the surfaces of the pieces and their placements. Hopefully the experience of not knowing can also trace back to the concept of hiddenness.

Taru Happonen - Mother of pearl,  photograph by Aukusti Heinonen

I've been following your work as a fan from afar for a few years, your expansion towards sculpture from painting i.e. 'expanded painting' is pretty thrilling.
I'd love to hear more about how your practice has changed alongside this progression and where in your process you experience this change the most (if at all)?

It's nice to hear that my works have resonated with you! I describe my artistic practice as expanded painting, but I often paint on traditional stretched canvas as well. The choices in expression depend on both the ideas behind the artwork and the space in which I present the pieces. In some spaces, letting the painting blend into the environment doesn't feel like the right solution, whereas, for example, the environment of Taattisten Tilan encouraged a spatial spread.

In addition to finding suitable presentation venues, my works have been expanding through the materials I use. I am constantly seeking new materials for the artworks, which set off chains of thought. For example, the pearlescent pigment used in the artworks of the Solar Noon exhibition resembles particles of dust that stick to your fingers when you touch a butterfly. When the pigment is mixed with epoxy, it begins to resemble stardust in space, and, on the other hand, the droplets formed by the flows resemble pearls from seashells. The selection of materials is based on the meanings they carry, and by juxtaposing organic and synthetic substances.

Through these materials, the expression has at times become more three-dimensional, as if guided by the materials themselves.

Marianna Henriksson - Kimpoiluja

I love how you equate the passage of time to musical vibrations, in a way I have always felt that music is a portal to travel through or transcend time, and your emphasis on the
bodily sensorial experience in your approach to performance gives me shivers (in the best way). It's such a unique opportunity to be able to witness a harpsichord up-close, let alone within a farmscape environment. I would love to hear
a bit more about your research and feelings around the power of experiencing music up-close, intimate encounters with music, and any other thinking or dreaming behind Kimpoiluja that you might want to share.

MARIANNA HENRIKSSON: For many years, I have been interested in ancient theories about how music’s interaction with human beings and the world was understood. Since the antiquity, music was deeply connected with the way the universe functioned; in fact, the proportions and movements of the known planets and spheres were music. The sounding music of our ”sublunar” world was that same cosmic movement and harmony turned into a form that could reach our ears and enter our bodies. Music was almost magical vibrating air that had the power of moving and stirring our insides, thus our minds and souls.

These thoughts were still very vivid in the 17th century, that I will play harpsichord music from. I will connect music by Girolamo Frescobaldi, Michelangelo Rossi and Jean-Henri d’Anglebert to new music by myself, Jonte Knif and Olli Virtaperko. I try to re-think the ancient theories about the power of musical sound and take them with me into the moment that I will play. That moment will tie the centuries-old music and thoughts together with our living bodies that are experiencing this flow of sounds together.

The exhibition context that Riikka has curated, is a wonderful occasion to bring the sound very near to the listener. My harpsichord has a very resonant and voluminous sound and I think many will be surprised about the kind of a ”bath” it can create while heard in an intimate situation. The title Kimpoiluja (difficult to translate in English: bouncings? ricochetings?) is derived from a quote from Athanasius Kircher’s 1650 giant book about music’s miraculous powers. As part of my performances, I will read some lines from this book. I’m really looking forward to experiencing the exhibition site and the interaction of my performance with the artworks presented there!

Find out more about the performance schedule (5-6.8.) & booking here.

☀︎ See more photos of the exhibition here ☀︎

Location: Taattisten tila, Koverintie 23, 21160 Merimasku

Opening hours: 19.7.–19.8.2023, Wed-Sun 11–18

Solar Noon is curated by Riikka Thitz & produced by i dolci ry in collaboration with Taattisten tila and TUO TUO.

Supported by Arts Promotion Centre Finland
& Kone Foundation.