Art review: Korakrit Arunanondchai and Maija Blåfield at Kiasma

Korakrit Arunanondchai's Giant Rat of the Future. Photo: fictivestina©

“What will happen now in the world?”
~Maija Blåfield to Marcel Bloemendal

I had withdrawal symptoms. It had been over a month since my last visit to an art exhibition, so something had to be done about it. Working two straight weeks in a row were also the final draw in my need for some relaxation and artsy experiences.

Well, after taking off the afternoon of a work day, I headed towards Kiasma – Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki. Kiasma currently runs three major shows: ARS17 is still there with two new exhibitions – Korakrit Arunanondchai‘s with history in a room filled with people with funny names and Ars Fennica 2017. The latter mentioned hosts the following candidates: Maija Blåfield, artist couple Pekka and Teija IsorättyäPerttu SaksaKari Vehosalo, and Camilla Vuorenmaa. The winner will be announced in February 2018.

The upper floor at Kiasma has been hosting very ambitious video installations in the recent times, and this time I was not disappointed either. Korakrit Arunanondchai’s videos are insights into an otherness, mixing memory, history and a sense of belonging to the nowadays. I did not really grasp, though, what me meant to say in between the lines. Some of the content seemed a bit pseudo-philosophical or spiritual to my rationally inclined mind. I think Korakrit managed to portray an atmosphere with the current young generations where the sense of belonging might be questionable.

The denim generation looking ahead to a bright future. Art work by Korakrit Arunanondchai. Photo: fictivestina©
The denim generation looking ahead to a bright future. Art work by Korakrit Arunanondchai. Photo: fictivestina©

As I keep looking for dystopian material in places where it might not be relevant, I found a fascination in Korakrit’s concept of “all that is left from us is code“. It’s a nice play with sci-fi terminology and what makes one human.

After I spent over an hour with Korakrit Arunanondchai’s art works, I proceeded to check out Ars Fennica, the biggest Finnish art award awarded since 1991. The exhibition features works by five artist or artist pairs.

To pick out my favorites among the works of art, I liked Kari Vehosalo‘s Baroque of Violence (The Auto-Erotic Decapitation of Jayne Mansfield) (2017) and Nature Morte (2017) by Pekka and Teija Isorättyä. Vehosalo managed to bring back J.G. Ballard‘s Crash, a book I reviewed in January this year.

“By making machines, we also try to understand the world.”
~Pekka and Teija Isorättyä, Nature Morte

What really fascinated me was Maija Blåfield‘s On Destruction and Preservation (2017). The 34-minute video incorporates absurd cohesion among the six stories in the film. The level of humor is both on the surface and beneath the surface. The characters in the film and editing cuts bring a sense of adventure and magic into the story.

“This is not normal. We are in the Arctic. Temperature in the sea have risen so much that the fjord is also open in the winter. There is no ice at all.”
~Finn in On Destruction and Preservation

What remains is the fallacy of humanity. Environment can cope without us but we cannot manage without the environment. I entered the film while it showed the taxi ride in the village of Longyearbyen in the Arctic Svalbard and all one could hear or see is the voice of the driver/guide Finn and the constant dystopian kind of rain and an utter darkness.

Water plays both a calming and powerful element in the film. There are absurd references in the film. The episode Instructions on Building a Monument gives us a glimpse into human relations and the absurdity of the text vs. video while the episode proceeds.

Another magical sphere is created in the episode where Maija receives a letter concerning a lost parcel. The episode seems to deal with the brief normalcy of consumption, but the viewer is then taken on a tour into imagination and consideration of what might have happened to the items in the parcel, now somewhere in the deep-sea.

A sympathetic episode shows Marcel Bloemendal, a schizophrenic man in his 70’s, who used to travel around Europe with 18 bags. Bloemendal considers himself a James Bond for the intellectuals. I imagined what this could imply. What would a James Bond for the intellectuals be interested in and occupy himself with? Would he be a science guy, solving unsolved issues in the world of academia or an Indiana Jones type professor who gets into action every now and then?

– “You used to say always that you want to save the world.”
– “Well, I did well believe it has some influence and that it could change the minds of people, but…”
~Question by Blåfield to Marcel Bloemendal

A real adventure plot comes forth in the episode on the presumably world’s oldest eel that was found in a well in Sweden. According to legends, the eel is said to be about 155 years old. We never get the definitive answer whether this is true or not but the plot is presented like a mystery story, although the main thing the viewer gets to see is inside a lab somewhere in Sweden, and a rather calm and unenergetic scientist talking about how eels like to touch each other but that eels are quite aggressive as well.

“In a favourable environment, the spore grows into a new fungus individual.”
~Maija Blåfield in On Destruction and Preservation

More information:
– Kiasma: Korakrit Arunanondchai – with history in a room filled with people with funny names 4 (2017)
– Kiasma: Maija Blåfield on On Destruction and Preservation
– Maija Blåfield’s website: On Destruction and Preservation
– Maija Blåfield: Trailer for On Destruction and Preservation
– Maija Blåfield: Tienpiennartarinoita – Roadside Narratives on Instagram

Links retrieved on 21 October 2017.

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Author: fictivestina

Hey, I'm a native Helsinkian but a cosmopolitan at heart :) Outdoors, reading, writing and cultural attractions are my passion. Hiking in Lapland cannot be competed with!

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