Kohta continues to develop formats for collaborating with artists of all active generations working in diverse artistic formats. We invite artists from all over the world to exhibit, but this does not mean that we restrict our interaction with artists from Finland. Quite the opposite, we treasure any occasion to engage in creative collaborations with them, while maintaining our international profile.
Our last exhibition this year gathers five active Finnish artists, of whom two currently live and work in other European countries, and also features one artist who is no longer alive. The curatorial point of departure was a hunch that these artists might have something in common, and that the kunsthalle could be turned into a ‘vision-portal’ to other realities – hidden or suppressed, imagined or engineered – and an ‘action-space’ that artists can subvert and twist to their own needs – visual, narrative or both.
We envision a fluid exhibition that finds its own symmetry when on-site productions and existing works come together as a ‘vision-place’, which is a literal translation of the exhibition’s Finnish title. Näkypaikka was supposed to mean ‘theatre’, but the word can in fact only be found – along with its synonym katselupaikka, ‘view-place’ – in lists of coinages proposed by the first translator of the Bible into Finnish, Mikael Agricola (1510–57). When we use it now, 500 years later, we are effectively inviting Finnish-speakers to interpret and understand it in their own way. (The current Finnish word for ‘theatre’ is teatteri.)
Two of the participating artists have been invited to execute their work in Kohta’s exhibition space, adding or subtracting elements. Marja Kanervo (1958, lives in Helsinki) is known for her site- and building-specific installations, informed by painting as a system of thought and action. She will drill a multitude of holes into Kohta’s walls, exposing the plywood underneath their painted plasterboard and forming ‘swarms’ along the edges and corners of both galleries. Benjamin Orlow (1984, lives in London) has recently shown expressive and tentatively anthropomorphic ceramic sculptures in various sizes. He is invited to create a large-scale shape of unfired clay on site at Kohta. It will claim much of the floor space and be left to dry for the duration of the exhibition.
Two other artists contribute pieces that are partially new but also continue existing works. Henna Hyvärinen (1986, lives in The Hague) will show a video portrait of her uncle, the last surviving member of the family to have been born in eastern Karelia. Like the first part of this planned trilogy, a video portrait of her mother titled Pussycat Soup (2022) also shown here, this new film will be subtitled in both English and Livvi, the dialect of Karelian that her family used to speak. Laura Lohiaita (1989, lives in Helsinki) is just graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts. She will show existing prints of a series of photographic works featuring human faces and based on scans of her mobile phone screen. There will also be banners with enlargements of these layered images, printed especially for the exhibition.
The remaining two artists are represented by existing work displayed in such a way that its communication with the other work in the exhibition – and with the two gallery rooms – is enhanced, maximised. Jussi Kivi (1959, lives in Helsinki) is known for drawings, photographs and installations that articulate his fascination – at times bordering on obsession – with liminal spaces and especially with the underground. He will show a series of photographs that capture the sublime within the contemporary natural and built environment. Veijo Rönkkönen (1943–2010, lived in Parikkala close to the Russian border) was a self-taught artist famous for the sculpture park he created next to his home, populated mostly by concrete casts of his own body in various yoga poses. We will show Rönkkönen’s series of double-exposed photographs from 1994, in which shots of his own nude body, backlit in the narrow door to his sauna, are superimposed with views from the Parikkala Sculpture Park.
The works by all these artists give us the sensation that something is seeping through from another dimension, unseen or only partially visible. Regardless of the technique used to produce them, the images in this exhibition become portals – also unto themselves as non-images. This is the case with Kanervo, whose drilled holes form an image only when reproduced in sufficient quantity, or with Lohiaita’s banners, which double as curtains between different parts of the exhibition, or with Rönkkönen’s photographs, printed life-size and plastered onto the walls to simulate a parallel reality of sauna doors we might all step through. In Orlow’s sculptures, Kivi’s photographs and Hyvärinen’s videos, this portal function is at the same time more literal and more subtle. They usher viewers into alternative views and visions of reality, but without insisting on breaking the illusion of mirroring life around them.