ART OF INHABITATION

PART I Galleria Huuto, Helsinki

PART II Pictura, Dordrecht

 

   

 
               
     
             
   

   
             

ART OF INHABITATION -MODULATIONS

OCTOBER 11TH -NOVEMBER 9TH 2008

PICTURA, DORDRECHT, THE NETHERLANDS

Kim Bouvy, Kaarina Haka, Aletta de Jong ,Kalle Hamm& Dzamil Kamnager, Tiina Mielonen, Chris van Mulligen, Anu Suhonen and Karin Suter & Annu Wilenius.

In connection with the project Kalle Hamm has stayed as artist-in-residence at Stichting B.A.D. and Kaarina Haka at Stichting Kaus Australis in Rotterdam.

Art of inhabitation: Modulations approaches questions of multiple perspectives, ruptures, and shifts of various kinds. At the core of this exhibition is the question of how we exist in the world. Specifically, an exploration of what it is in our experience that shifts and alters, and what still remains the same as we travel from one place to another, from culture to culture, and from one age to another. In this exhibition, certain issues inevitably emerge, such as: belonging, being at or away from home, and the things that create or symbolize these experiences, as well as those that may destroy and change them.

 


ART OF INHABITATION: MODULATIONS


It is not important to be in any particular somewhere, but it is important to be particularly somewhere.

– Taina Rajanti


“Art of Inhabitation: Modulations” approaches questions of multiple perspectives, ruptures, and shifts of various kinds. At the core of this exhibition is the question of how we exist in the world. Specifically, an exploration of what it is in our experience that shifts and alters, and what still remains the same as we travel from one place to another, from culture to culture, and from one age to another. There are many reasons for change, whether they be physical or mental. Mobility and flexibility, but also durability, are essential themes in considering change: there is no sudden jump from one thing to another, but rather a process of gradual adjustment. It is these transitional processes that we like to think of addressing as modulations. In this exhibition, certain issues inevitably emerge, such as: belonging, being at or away from home, and the things that create or symbolize these experiences, as well as those that may destroy and change them.

 

Ideals on a Drift


One theme in the exhibition is the change of land and cityscape imageries. Kim Bouvy has been consistently working with urban spaces, and she has a particular relationship with Rotterdam.
The slide series, City of imagination (2007) combines images of Rotterdam collected from found materials and photographs taken by Bouvy. Rotterdam's image as a brave and daring city – Rotterdam durft! – is tightly integrated with the city's distinct architecture. This ultra-modern cityscape has served as a stage, for instance, to various car commercials. Bouvy, again, has been exploring the city's imagery and the city itself, for some years now, and her City of imagination series presents a new perspective of this city. Here, the haunting and often empty scenes are not there to criticize the leftover spaces of highbrow architecture, but to enliven a sense of beauty in the actual city spaces we inhabit. The spooky atmosphere of impending doom that Bouvy has created with her slideshow create the ambiance of a science fiction story depicting a city that is no longer what it used to be. Tellingly, these materials also form the basis for the book entitled, Phantom City – a Photo Novel (2008). Here, the city has been emptied, its infrastructure changed and time stopped. Looking at her work, one begins to wonder how much of all this ordinary devalued urban rubble would be missed if everything suddenly would be gone. It serves as a reminder of the turmoil that the city of Rotterdam experienced in the Second World War.


In Tiina Mielonen's paintings, this impending sense of abandonment, neglect and a tensed atmosphere is also present. Seemingly innocent in lush colors and eye-catching surfaces, Mielonen's paintings deal with much more than reproducing tourist imagery, from which the images originate. Mielonen's rupture in the idyll plays with the immediate recognition of the majority of the situations and places that she depicts. While looking a moment longer, or an inch deeper at her work, the expectation of the obvious in broken. Where do these places exist really? What exactly is happening?


A different shift of landscape images and questions of recognition arise in Karin Suter & Annu Wilenius' photo-installation, The 4 Page-Landscape – A Walk with a Landscape (2008).
The inspiration for their work originates from a shared experience in northern Mongolia, where both Suter and Wilenius felt that the surrounding landscape of meadows, lakes, and mountains appeared familiar, as if it collided with their own personal memories and ideas of landscapes. Returning to Europe Suter & Wilenius built a miniature of this landscape to match four pages in a book. The following year, they physically turned the miniature landscape upside down and covered it with perfectly grown grass lawn carpeting, placed the structure on wheels, and took it for a walk to the Rotterdam airport. In a sense, the idea of taking – or in this case dragging – not only plants but the whole landscape into a different environment, seems to be deeply rooted to the history of landscaping. For example, the English landscape garden was created to be the image of the Mediterranean arcadia of rolling green hills and clusters of trees and so the English countryside was changed to match this ideal. Some hundred years later, when planning the first ever National Park in the US its creator F.L. Olmstead was thinking of the English landscapes, in order to create a scenery that the Americans would understand and appreciate. Landscapes, as well as people and ways of life, immigrate, settle, take root, and set out on travels again.


Whilst the landscape and cityscape imagery mostly address the outdoor environment, Aletta de Jong's works explore the use of interior spaces. She, too, shares a concern in botany: for years de Jong has had an interest in working with plants. For the first Art of Inhabitation exhibition in Helsinki, de Jong created a poster with plants that she found between the two Huuto galleries located within a few hundred meters of each other. Tracing back the origins of the plants, she integrated a layer of botany history into the everyday observations within the cityscape. In Pictura, we will see de Jong's video diptych Tropical Garden / Reading Room (2006), where two spaces seem to dislocate. The videos are straightforward documentations of a tropical green house and a reading room in Basel. Choosing two very controlled and functional environments of this kind, de Jong's video can be seen paralleling these two modes of preservation and cultivation. The work also underlines the paradoxical nature of the ideals between the two space-times: the categories of nature and culture seem once again tightly intertwined as we observe the various technological finesses that it takes to sustain a tropical garden of various plants with different needs. Likewise, the supposed silence of a reading hall vanishes somewhere under the continuous and insistent sounds of bodily movements, tics and sighs that are required to keep the mind fed.

 


Traces of Time


Anu Suhonen's Shooting People (2003) and Kalle Hamm & Dzamil Kamanger's Afaryan Monolog and Afaryan Memories (2007) bring forth more acute questions of violence and belonging. Hamm & Kamanger's videos about the village of Afaryan, abandoned Kurd village in Iran, are an attempt to overcome the village's destiny of oblivion. A small village of some thirty houses was abandoned by its inhabitants mainly due to land reform and civil war. Finally, the placement of an army base near the village changed everything, so that the traditional life-style that had existed for centuries soon vanished, leaving nothing but a wreck and constellation of memories in the minds of those who had survived. In their work Hamm & Kamanger attempt to trace the story of the village as it is remembered by the people. The work also takes a step into the future, by presenting a 3D animation that depicts a new awakening of the village. Unlike the standard architectural 3D animations that are made to sell brave, new plans, in this work the 3D animation used serves as visualization tightly connecting to the history of the villagers.


In Shooting People, Suhonen found bullet holes in shop and café windows in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and placed herself with her camera behind the window-glass and "shot" people walking in the street by pushing the trigger just when someone passed the already existing bullet-hole. Passers by become part of a re-enactment, staged as potential victims of crimes taking place in the imaginary world of photography. From the spectator’s perspective, the images situate us behind a double isolation: we are both behind the camera and the glass. The latter could be seen as becoming a screen, in a sense of a shield or protection. In Shooting People we become, perhaps more than somewhere else within photography, witnesses or observers that do not take part. The only mediation between the passersby and us seem to be the hole in the glass, the act of targeting bullet-holes on the passers by.


Suhonen's piece is not without irony on the role of the photographer. But could Shooting People simply be thought of as a visual game with bullet-holes? If we look at the series from another point of view, the photographs might pose a whole different scenario. Perhaps this small fracture could also serve as a blind spot: For one thing, on visual level, this image brings to mind that we are isolated from the surroundings in the image. How else could we notice such a glass if it weren't for the defile? Simultaneously, the mark and rupture, show us a point where we cannot see. In a way, it seems that Suhonen is playing with the traditional idea of trompe l'œil where the spectator is lured into thinking that he or she could simply reach out their hand and enter the world of a painting. Here, the isolation from the outside world is emphasized in a way that easily makes one feel uncomfortable and unsheltered. Maybe it is us that the bullet has been heading at. Here, the rupture nails us into our places, turning the image upside down, placing us as the targets. From another viewpoint, we could say that the fissure marks our own seeing: It is actually our own blind spot, the area of the eye that cannot or does not want to reach, like the backs of our necks, our very own seeing, or perhaps our darkest fantasies. It is all a question of point-of-view.


At this very moment, in anticipation of the opening of the exhibition within a few weeks, the connotations of Suhonen's Shooting people also extend towards a deed of violence that took place in a school in Western Finland, taking the lives of eleven people. Once again, the community is horrified, as there seems to be no way to understand what happened. Moreover, what is more haunting, perhaps, is the idea that there is no guarantee that we ourselves are not responsible for what took place. From this particular point of view, also another series by Suhonen titled Camouflage (2006) seems to raise important questions. Camouflage shows a series of photographs where a green bell pepper turns orange, in order to fit into the surrounding environment – a fruit basket of oranges. Is this a peaceful acclimatization, a voluntary blending into one's surrounding or are we actually watching an act of mental violence, of forced unification? The title "camouflage" would hint at there not being real accommodation, but simple adjustment of the surface in order to fit in. Is the bell pepper, at heart, still at war with the world?


Perhaps in a slightly parallel way, Hamm & Kamanger's Colonial Grocery Store (2008), brings forth issues of adjustment. Colonial Grocery Store seems to trace the footsteps of colonizers, but in an altered form: The store gathers evidence of all those who have moved half way around the world from home, but still want the food stuffs and other specialties that they are used to consuming back home. In this featured shop, the artists have collected one product from every country in the world – as far as they were able to find them in Rotterdam. There are 193 countries that have been internationally acknowledged. The version of this project created this summer in Helsinki contained 96 products. The Colonial Grocery Store poses the questions of accommodation, and explores the logic of global economics and its desire to promote certain products, while leaving others marginalized and unwanted, outside the trade routes ordered by big corporations.

 


Modulations of the Mundane


The original intent of the Art of Inhabitation project was to bring forth the invisible and transparent elements in our everyday living. The subtitle of this exhibition, "Modulations" refers to, among other things, adaptation and alteration. It incorporates ambivalence: For instance, within music, modulation can serve as a vehicle of change, so that through modulation music becomes established in a new key. Likewise, the Art of Inhabitation: Modulations exhibition refers to some fundamental questions concerning inhabitation. The project also turns towards something that was not brought forth and articulated when we began, namely questions on history and ethics. In that sense, the experience of this exhibition involves the chore of modulation. Is it possible to see whether things simply continue, or whether they have already shifted away from their original state, or phase? Has there been adaptation, or has the original been invaded entirely by something new? In a sense, the Modulations exhibition and its historical and political references touch matters that could be thought of as more important than just the "transparent everyday". And, yet, as an Irish ambassador reflected in a seminar on reconciliation, sometimes when reaching understanding in the "big issues" is found impossible, the only way to go further is to start from the small and the mundane to build up trust and understanding.

 


Saara Hacklin & Annu Wilenius
Maastricht and Pori, October 1st 2008

 

ART OF INHABITATION - PART I


Asuttautumisia rotterdamilaisittain, Galleria Huuto, Helsinki, Finland
22.11 – 3.12. 2006


FOREWORD by Annu Wilenius


ESSAY - Space Diving by Saara Hacklin

 

Galleria Huuto Viiskulma and Uudenmaankatu present a joint exhibition by thirteen Rotterdam-based artists. Participating artists - Nic Bezemer, Kim Bouvy, Jason Coburn, Noëlle Cuppens, Peter Dijkshoorn, Rolf Engelen,
Marjan Greijn, Dineke van Huizen, Aletta de Jong, Chris van Mulligen, Christine Saalfeld, and Nayv (Nathalie van den Burg & Yvonne van der Helm)-discuss the art of inhabitation, namely the various ways of experiencing and interacting
with the environment we live in.The artworks contemplate subject matters as diverse as architecture to house plants: Aletta de Jong presents a selection from ongoing video series which traces different ways to perceive home, and in which people describe their own homes by using various objects. The piece traces different ways to perceive home. Noëlle Cuppens covers furniture with felt and creates installations where these everyday objects produce their own, strange and alienated worlds. Rolf Engelen’s ”Vlinderbuurt becomes neighbourhood of twigs” draws attention to
the way we relate to nature and shared space – the piece made in Rotterdam consists of thousand bronze twigs
affixed to the facades of the houses. Kim Bouvy is interested in the various visual and textual ways cities brand themselves.


Moreover, the exhibition raises questions about a change of environment: The population densities, climates, and histories of The Netherlands and Finland are very diverse.How does this affect the works, artists and viewers?

In connection with the exhibition HIAP project space hosts an event “Art of inhabitation presents:
Locating Rotterdam” on Wednesday 22nd November 6 to 8 pm.

In addition the participating artists are presented in a publication Art of inhabitation (Proba 0004 -series,
Studio 3005, 60 pages).


The exhibition is produced by Galleria Huuto with Annu Wilenius, Saara Hacklin, Tiina Mielonen and Dineke van Huizen, in behalf of Stichting Kaus Australis, as project managers.

The exhibition has been realised with support from Arts Council of Finland, The British Council, Centrum Beeldende Kunst Rotterdam, Dienst Kunst en Cultuur Rotterdam, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Helsinki, JuustoliikeLentävä Lehmä, ProAV and Studio 3005.


 

 

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