maanantai 25. huhtikuuta 2016

Two heads for the pigeons

Two Heads for the Pigeons
Two heads for the pigeons, was (or IS for all that I know) a piece, a work, an effort I took to complete while my stay in a month long residency in the Polymer culture factory in Tallin Estonia. The place itself is an old soviet toy factory, now occupied by various assortments of artist studios and residencies.  The main building was surrounded by other industrial buildings, some abandoned and some transformed into small businesses and the alike. Car repair shops, used part dealerships, some more hipsterish design firm, a biker gang hideout, a nightclub and the usual stuff to see around this kind of environment. All of this spoke directly my aesthetic appreciation for decaying landscape of the industrial era. However cheesy that might sound. The work itself was not designed to be decidedly macabre but rose from other avenues from thought entirely.  
As is customary for my work flow, I had spent two weeks just wandering around, gathering firewood for heating my studio space and bouncing of ideas from other artist inmates of the establishments. I had originally considered some entirely different line of work but having found an entrance to this one particular utterly abandoned hall of what ones was a ceramics factory or some other establishment which had left behind the ruins of brick built furnaces and chimneys. The room must have at some point had more than just one floor as there was no clear plane on which to walk on and the ground elevation at some point rose to several meters.  Literally every spot was covered in old junk either from the original time the place had been in use or something people had just dumped there to get rid of.  One particular spot in the room rose higher than the rest and on top of it was the remains of a brick wall framed by steel bars that held it flimsily together. It faced south where despite of all the dirt on them the wall sized windows filtered the sunlight in, giving the whole scene an unmistakable aura of an altar. There were pigeon droppings everywhere literally by the tons, granting another hint that it had been abandoned for more than a while. 
There it was. A space filled with most of the materials I could ever need and a specific spot on the same space just waiting to be discovered.  All just left for the pigeons that inhabited the space in great numbers.  The altar like setting of the one standing wall on an elevated surface had triggered an ongoing fascination in me for religious and ritual practices around the world. While I’m not a religious man myself I certainly have an appreciation for all manners of human attempts to connect to our environment or to discern the nature of our existence. The theme of burial rites seemed more than appropriate for this dead building and the birds gave the final clue. There has been in use in several cultures in history the practice that has been dubbed sky burial. Most notably the Native Americans and some Buddhist lineages set their dead on high pedestals on elevated ground for the larger birds to feed.  All of this would presumably have had the notion of setting something back into the circulation of nature. So in the end, the idea became something simple as that. 
The actual process of the work took about week and a half. The heads were made out of clay that later was fired at a local ceramics workshop at which I was lucky enough to have some acquaintances working at. The main skeleton of the figures I put together mostly out of waste materials from the room or surrounding areas. After which they were wrapped in cloth, also found there, soaked in plaster, which allowed me to work on some finer detail. The heads were hollow and I had left some cavities in the main bodies for the final touch. Several kilos of birdseeds were bought and the figures were filled with them. There it was. I named it Two heads for the Pigeons, the main effort having been sculpting the heads and the main audience to be were the birds. No opening ceremonies were held for the work to be exhibited. Rather I chose to put up some posters and form an online info group to guide people there. Hoping that in this way the experience would have been more intimate this way. I have not really seen or heard about the piece for a while now and for all I know it’s still there, slowly being buried under rubble and pigeon droppings.

The Kiln 2012

The Kiln

The Kiln in its entireity is prettymuch exactly what the title suggests and in this instance its
a kiln specifically designed to fire up ceramics in a largely experimental enviroment. The project was a part of Avamaa 2012 – Building MoKSville symposium held at the estonian village of Mooste.
The following description of Avamaa is taken from the official webpage of the event.

AVAMAA is a unique symposium for art and ideas hosted every summer by MoKS, an artist run organization and residency center in the rural village of Mooste Estonia. AVAMAA encourages creative interventions in the local context and the exchange of ideas through the platform of a living workshop. AVAMAA roughly translates as ‘open land’. The central idea for AVAMAA 2012 is to create a temporary “village” or camp we call Moksville, out of affordable recyclable and locally sourced materials.

The central idea of the syposium was for the artist to contstuct their own part of the village out of the goven materials. A precept from which I admittedly deviated a bit and chose to construct my frunace out of found waste material instead. The village ended up having a restaurant, a diy windpowerplant, a pingpong table/movie theater, pagoda, sleeping tents and ofcourse my construction: the fully working ceramics kiln made of scrap materials in which we managed to fire up claywork made by the local children and other workshop attendants.

The final idea had dawned to me briefly before the deadline of proposals to this symposium as I was writing another application for another exhibition. The unrealized piece would have consisted of creating a stylized stoneage statuette out of waste materials. I had allso had some experience on working with fire on a previous collaborative effort in Skoki, Poland, in the form of designing and executing a fully functionin Ugristyle saunatent from yet again improvised materials.
From these elements it was no long mental trip to deciding I wanted to experiment on building a functioning ceramic kiln. I had no previous experiment on working with clay or constructin other such devices so the process itself served itself as a fundamental learning and discovering experience for this kind of work. I had some schetces of more typical forms of moder kilns which I adapted into the framework visualizing the outcome but largely it went by on the lines of This seems about right-type of thinking.  The end result was a success. And after I had stood by the thing for 12 hours keeping up the fire with some unholy amout of wood which I had gathered during the week we had our clayworks fully fired and people attending could take home their pieces as souveniers.
One added personal bonus of this endeavor was that it sparked an ongoing passion for me towards clay as a material, which I continued from then on to use in other pieces to come.

Axes 2015

I am not interested in theories. I am interested in Ideas.
I’ve been sitting here in front of a blank virtual sheet of paper for a while now. There’s quite a few pieces of roughly modeled rock downstairs, ready to be further processed into axes and other pseudo stone-age paraphilia. I do have thoughts about them, even deep ones. But they escape my fingers, which just end up resting restlessly on the keyboard.  I suppose writing pointless crap like this is illustrating one way I employ, to evoke some creative forces buried in me. The point is, one has to keep whatever concept emerges into the white emptiness in the text as a whole.
Exercise. Exorcise.  Possess.
Voodoo cults arouse in ones mind images of pinned dolls, skulls, bones and people loosing themselves in weird states of trance. This is a mostly fictive narrative perpetuated by the entertainment industry, but still it has its roots in reality. The pinned dolls would be the westernized image of the figurines present at various voodoo rituals. Those figurines do not only represent the gods worshipped, they are considered to have the essence of the divinity in their form. The statues are alive. They are living gods. Such way of asserting essential values to inanimate objects has been dubbed Fetishism by the European scientist.
A quick virtual shuffling through the pages of Wikipedia reveals to us several strains to be explored under the umbrella term fetishism. All of them however hold at the core of them the idea that an object in itself carries, or holds inside it, some meaning or is an abstract concept materialized and is to be revered as something past the material sphere we inhabit.  Of course one cannot avoid attaching sexual connotations to the term fetishism, and indeed sexual fetishism would be one avenue to explore within our thematic framework, but I refrain from walking down that path, mostly to avoid being viewed as a pervert under the scrutiny of my peers.
Another fascinating train of thought sets of when I pass through the pages dealing with a concept dubbed commodity fetishism by the mammoth Karl Marx himself, in his book Capital: Critique of political economy. Skipping over some of the parts that are so dry they make ones eyes cry for lotion, I could, by shifting sentences out of their original contexts, summarize that under capitalistic systems the means of exchange aka money and goods are seen as having far more value that the labor spent to produce them would suggest. This is achieved through branding and image marketing that pretty much define the state of our culture today. 
Being a stand up participant in our beloved western hegemony I however chose not to take into consideration the obvious subversive nature of Marx’s writings (well, more precisely quotes from his writings). Instead I’m formulating an idea more useful for the struggling contemporary artist. One that runs along the lines of Karl’s writings with an aim to replicate the process of fetishizing the commodity, or in this case a piece of art or an artifact, in order to extract as much imagined value from it to be used in case of an exchange involving more conventional forms of currency.
So, a long story keeps on getting longer.  I am producing at this moment a ceremonial versions of stone tools inspired by what I imagine the Cro-Magnon using 50,000 years ago. Which again links me back to the subject of animistic religions, if I so wish to proceed in the course of my ranting.  I aim for the finalized object to convey a sense of meaning and value way beyond my subjective evaluation about the worth of my labor used to produce it. I also wish to make it clear here, that  it is the creation of an Object that I am interested in, rather than producing an image or a sketch of an abstract concept. I believe art in itself is profoundly linked to this process of fetishisation and it should be understood and celebrated as such, rather than reaching towards the desolate spheres we have dubbed objectivity and reality.
Another point of interest for me is what happens before an object is fetishized. How is an object born?
Rock as such to me is an endless borderless mass of grey, sometimes taking on shades of pink and green. Rock is solid. Rock is silent and nondescript substance.
What then happens when this abstract or primordial sense of matter is transformed into a tangible object. For this part I choose to loosely study or appropriate the concepts of individuation and reification, borrowed straight from the wondrous simulation of a dictionary, the Wikipedia.
            The term Individuation would refer to the process in which “a thing is identified as distinguished from other things”, or from an abstraction to an object in this case. Individuation can also refer to the way in which we ourselves become the I. In short I am stating that the process through which an object is born, is the process of our minds actively producing it from all the fuzz of chaos that surrounds us. Even more shortly put, noticing something is creating it as an object. I also suspect that the act of separating and defining objects from the Fuzz is in the end a key factor in our own Becoming.
            Reification, is basically another way if saying what has been said above. It is a Marxian concept to be shunned upon, but holds in it self some level of poetical weight that I’d wish to use for my own purposes during the process of celebrating the fetishisation of art. Also, I figure it would piss of some of the more self righteous leftist creatures inhibiting our cultural spheres.
            I seriously just forgot what I was writing about. Such is the way of forever. It is all but dust and we are to joyfully participate in the sorrows of the world.

Guillotine 2013

A prototype for a machine guillotine. 2013. Helsinki
I cannot be entirely sure where the idea for a motorized quillotine originally came from and allthough at the time of it's conception I had been occupied for a while with thoughts about politics in general, I can assure that it wasn't a desire to chop of heads that gave seed to this monstrosity.
Firstly, I had been interested in mechanics and motion for a while when I started to think about constructing some form of a kinetic sculpture. Having been working with fire before a motorized instrument running on nothing less grandiose than a steam engine would have been the ultimate achievement in my mind at the time. Coming to grips with reality however forced me to scale down a bit but I never let go of the part about the mechanics with a motor as an option.
Now, it's quite hard to justify building such a conceptually hellish device that I did. A fact which in hindsight served as the driving force behind the project for me at the time. It was yet again not the actual outcome, which I endeavored to be complete as functional as possible with the resources at hand, but the process of making the thing that served me as an artist. During the manufactoring period I got to meditate on thoughts about the history of western democracy in light of the current global political turmoils of the world. Namely, the quillotine served to me as a symbol fro the french revolution and the rise of modern political movements and their gruesome origins. It'd be easy to dismiss all warring factions around the world as barbaric by nature but I would suggest that it's more productive in the long run that in someways we all have blood on our hands.
On a lighter note, I did enjoy coaxing a reaction out of the audience in our final exhibition. And I did enjoy the conversations that rose out of it which would be in my opinion be the point of this kind of artworks post their completion. It is fascinating how surprisingly strongly we react to such symbols that remind us of how brutal our human existance can sometimes be. And while I in these conversations insisted on the symbolic nature of this very real object and its sibling work Improvised Weaponry for the Ongoing Struggle for Our Daily Bread, it took quite abit of convincing on my part to assure people that I personally am practically a pacifist. 
The technical side of this project was yet again a bit of an adventure for me. I had very little experience in working with mechanics and due to my budget an early decision had to be made to construct the whole thing mostly out of recycled parts. All the wood parts were painstakingly dug up from construction yard trash piles. A discarded bicycle was dismantled so I could use it's gears for the mechanics and some additional cogs and chains were aquired from a recycling centre. After what was a very painstaking process of endless trial and error I got the machine to actually run with a power drill as it's powersource. However for the exhibition purpouses we had to make a collective decision to leave it as a stationary piece just for the safety of our audience. You could run the machine by rotating an atteched bicycle pedal and it ran fine but the continuous use of power tools that ran with 240 volts straight from the wall seemed for some people to be a bit risky. Go figure.