Monday, September 15, 2014

William Dennisuk - Hidden Variables

As many have pondered and discovered, when it comes to growing up, the first source for information are the senses with which an individual observes and situates oneself into the surrounding world which does its best to overwhelm our thoughts and bodies with its remarkable diversity of beings and phenomena. Whether the said information is gathered by looking, tasting or touching, or merely by reading, the objective for the act is nearly always the desire to make sense to what it is that the individual is experiencing, satisfying the curiosity that gives the impulse for the aforementioned actions. For teachers, nurturing the innate drive for trying out how things work in the reality that is around us is one of the biggest challenge when it comes to children and teenagers, as the older an individual becomes, the more subdued the curiosity grows to be since the flow of the information narrows down into more accurate, more abstract and more defined by the demand of knowing what is considered important instead of having space for vague understanding, tolerance for blind areas and humility to admit that nothing is certain and invariable when it comes to the bizarre structures we call society, science and culture. For centuries, side by side with the thriving inventions of science, artists have strived to understand and communicate with the said uncertainty of certainty and its many hidden layers, as well as providing new ways to unveil them for the seeing eye..and the gentleman who has become the subject of this post serves a menu that tickles the taste for that.

Twofold, 2014

With his works, William Dennisuk approaches many questions of being and perceiving by creating a space which gives an impulse that ignites the spark of curiosity from the very first step taken over the gallery's threshold. As the artist himself explains, his goal is not to explain comprehensively what his thoughts are regarding the duality of the tactile and the visual experience, but to offer a viewpoint from which the viewers can construct their own connections to the works on display. The large forms that were brought into the gallery are based on objects that the artist had studied with the idea of vessels: objects within objects, layers that are hidden beneath multiple others and sometimes even on plain sight yet unseen in their nakedness and dynamic nature. It is notable that the idea of the vessel can be connected to the flesh of a body, as the terms and the forms soon enough interlace with each other and acquire new meanings, new reflections into which one can get immersed should they choose to. The size and the material of the forms encourages the bodily experience, as one gets drawn closer to see, to feel what it is that is shown and which seems to dodge the sharpness of the gaze, as well as the categorizing mind. Funnily enough, the artist was right in his guess that everyone will be poking and patting his works, as that was exactly what happened with our small band of curious minds, amidst the constant circling around and peeking both through and inside the works.

As for yours truly, the shifts between the blur and sharp visual focus, the momentary deception of the eye as well as the beautiful play of natural light and the living shadows it created were the essence of the experience that gave the understanding on what the artist refers to when he borrows the words of Niels Bohr on how in order to truly speak about atoms, the only choice would be to use the language as in poetry. Delightfully, Dennisuk has embraced the lyrical approach on both the tactile and abstract language, as not only do the works actively persuade the mind to discuss with them, but the titles of the pieces weave the final knots to the web that is left for the curious to unravel.

Dual, 2014

William Dennisuk - Hidden Variables
Gallery Sculptor
From 12th to 28th of September
Tue-Fri 11-17
Sat-Sun 12-16

Friday, September 12, 2014

View on what has been and is yet to be said

KIM SIMONSSON: 'The golden lying dear' (ceramics, glass, gold), 'The Invisible Hand' (photograph)

Along the Fall many things occur, such as the continuation of the thesis, starting the evening works and furthermore, most importantly, getting into situations and places that are popping up as the nights begin to darken again. This post gives a small view on the exhibitions yours truly bumped into, all of them sadly being in the past already when this text is typed, but what are still considered worthy of mentioning despite the unfortunate fact. First of all, the autumn season in the gallery Sculptor has begun and during the Helsinki Festival Weeks the audience was presented with an exhibition by Kim Simonsson, a renowned Finnish sculptor whose somewhat of a trademark are frail-looking, still figures of children, with defined gender or not. The materials he uses are ceramics, glass, metal and a plethora of different paints and glazes, only to mention a few, and the characteristics of said figures do remind the viewer of Asian pop culture, especially manga and the sleek, highly visualized images of industrialized celebrities. On the other hand, beneath the cold, white and polished surfaces, they do refer to the macabre absurdity of what is nowadays culture and society.

The next mentionable exhibition caught the eye by accident and turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Jussi Twoseven is an artist who's not overly familiar but who seems like worth knowing better, and who provided a good overview on what one can do with stencils when they have discovered their way of making a mark, and whose works made me yet again ponder on my own thoughts regarding the juxtaposition of public and private, legal and illegal, visual and tactile. Street art, as one could say as the definition of this certain genre, has always been somewhat puzzling to myself when seeing it used in a gallery, as the ones I've encountered are either photographs depicting and commenting certain things happening in the city, or massive paintings done with the same methods that are used on the streets, or, when lucky, works that are really commenting the provided space itself. In a sense I have never quite understood why the transformation of a graffiti suddenly into a painting that is available for purchase makes me unease, why the change of environment affects me so.

JUSSI TWOSEVEN: ROar27, spraypaint and acryl on mdf, 310X270 cm

It could be that being a rather site-specifically inclined person myself, seeing something surrounded by a clean and profit-inclined ambiance rather than spotting the thing amidst a place that is full of both visible and audible cacophony and sometimes takes a moment to see makes the whole object seem a bit out-of-place. This doesn't mean that the gallery space is ill-suited for graffiti and such, on the contrary the contradictions and such are always welcome to appear and happen. As it is, the art scene always takes the ideas in both ways, from the institutionalized art scenes to the borderline illegal works that happen in the public space that is more or less controlled and restricted in the sense of who it is designed for, so seeing graffiti in a gallery isn't really worth of wasting the breath on a superficial personal dilemma. For instance the gallery called Make your mark has a valuable place within the art scene, as they combine anarchy and creativity with the always delightful question of what is and isn't appropriate and legal by enhancing the gallery space in their use. In any case, the exhibition causing this tiny ramble did actually manage to erase some of the lurking scepticism concerning graffiti-turned-into-painting, and maybe even assure me that there's no danger of street art losing its edgy and sharp-minded character in the world of art markets, no matter how much only certain artists get the praise that all of them rightfully deserve. Plus the perhaps unintended reference towards Rorschach tests did make a smirk appear onto this lady's face.

The third party of this passed trio was, actually, the one that made my day. A spatial, tactile and prosaic experience was created as Ilona Valkonen, Tinttu Henttonen and Marjo Niemi combined their creative skills and took over Forum Box during the Helsinki Festival Weeks. I've always enjoyed seeing the exhibitions in Forum Box, as the space itself is just amazing to enter, the high walls and subtle light both expanding and enclosing around oneself, and I was more than happy to note that the said artists had indeed embraced the space with their works. Not to mention getting one's quota on ropes and knots was the best bit for yours truly, as it gave pleasure I didn't even know I had craved for for the past hectic months. The way the paintings were presented did also press all the right buttons within me, as the structures of the paintings were made visible and put to use, but also how they had put thought into the lumination of the works. The shifts between floating and being tightly tied down, almost as if both preventing and protecting, the ways how the gaze was directed from one point to another, one could find themselves immersing into their world and feeling reluctant to let go, not to touch the canvas, the subtle colors, the ropes, the words that poured from Marjo's pen as she stepped inside the lines, in between the lines and even throwing them to the reader with her poetic prose, walking right on the heels and making one see the unseeable.

ILONA VALKONEN: To Gabriele Basilico: Can I leave my bike in front of your Beirut?

Ropes by Tinttu Henttonen.


ILONA VALKONEN, TINTTU HENTTONEN: part of a larger installation.
ILONA VALKONEN, TINTTU HENTTONEN: parts of a larger installation.

But, as Monthy Python would put it, the next post is something completely different.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Bands of Arms - Hamina Tattoo 2014

As the heatwave hit Helsinki and our apartment building decided that it was an appropriate time to turn into a greenhouse due to facade renovations done to it, this lady packed her bags, charged the camera, hoisted the laptop in its satchel and took the direction far, far, far the hell away from all the racket and splendid cacophony resembling dubstep gone horribly wrong that occurs when the drill hits concrete. Murder was becoming a justified option to placate my eardrums. Not that yours truly is all foreign to the infernal odes of men and machinery as working in construction sights is familiar, but when not working at the sight one rarely wants to have anything to do with it. Hence the swift escape away from Helsinki.

The grand tour went via the exhibition of William Kentridge that's currently happening in EMMA, Espoo Museum of Modern Art (a gorgeous experience to re-acquaint myself with at some point) to Turku. There, beside writing the thesis, I found myself seeing the past capital in a different light. Wandering through the nature preservation areas, by the sea-sides, and seeing the old architecture that I haven't even considered to exist in that city, made the heart grow fonder towards the place. Not to mention strolling down the well-known river-side of the river Aura and watching the swallows fly above our heads while enjoying tea on the balcony were the perfect little cherries turned into jam and eaten on a toast with some good Woojeon on the side. In any case, if you haven't visited the small city yet, I dare you to.

But, as the title of this post tells, this text isn't about the wonders of Western Finland, but the festivities that happen in a tiny town with circular city plan in Eastern Finland. Namely Hamina, the town where this lady grew up to be what the legends tell nowadays and where just last summer I had a co-exhibition with a dear friend. Growing up in a town where the constant presence of the Finnish Defence Forces is part of everyday life gives its own impact on, say, how one carries herself, how one likes to dress up remarkably like an officer (and has the presence of one to boot) and, as it goes for this post, grows to enjoy military music.

Hamina Tattoo, as some could think, has nothing to do with having some ink put on the skin for creating an image of a busty pin-up holding a flag with written hommage to anyone deserving having their name associated with scantily dressed women, but with bands of men and women playing the march music, symphonies and their most popular music pieces under their country's flag while wearing uniforms under the hot sun. The event was started in 1990, when a few active members of the military, music circles and travelling agencies decided to put their heads together and create something that would bring life to the sleepy harbor city and at the sime time honor the history of Hamina, which is a town that was founded on active army working there. The only things that I can remember from those early days of this festival that came to be, is that the first times were held in a huge hall in the harbor and seeing the Chinese military band, the sight of their fire red uniforms and yellow accent colors being etched in the memory of the little girl sitting and staring at the soldiers in the audience.

The Guards Band, Finland

In any case, despite the time passing and the society changing around us, the tradition still holds its ground and has now grown into a full week of festivities celebrated throughout the town. During the years, certain nations have established their role as the backbone of the festival, namely the American, British, Russian and German bands that visit Hamina Tattoo when they have the opportunity to do so, as well it has become a custom to have a few other bands from different countries each time, not to mention presenting the bands of the Finnish Defence Forces, such as the bands from the Navy, the Air Forces and so on. Beside the actual marching shows that present all of the bands visiting Hamina, there have always been concerts held in parks and market squares, so that the inhabitants and the occasional tourists can enjoy the music whenever possible without it being limited only to those willing to pay for the symphonic delights.

This time we had the pleasure to hear music from the spectacular and talented musicians of Heeresmusikkorps Koblenz from Germany, Western Military District Headquarters Band from Russia, The Combined Bands of the Lancashire Artillery and the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment serving the British menu, His Majesty The King's Guard from Norway (not only playing good music, these fellows know how to twirl a rifle while moving in formation), The Japan Ground Self-Defence Force Central Band which is the elite ensemble that usually accompanies the emperor and therefore this was their first time performing in Europe, and, of course, the Finnish bands which were the Guards Band, The Air Force Band, The Conscript Band of the Finnish Defence Forces, The Navy Band, The Lapland Military Band and The Dragoon Band.

Western Military District Headquarters Band, Russia

His Majesty The King's Guard, Norway

The Conscript Band of the Finnish Defence Forces, Finland

The Combined Bands of The Lancashire Artillery and the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, Great Britain

Heeresmusikkorps Koblenz, Germany

The taiko drums belonging to the Japan Ground Self-Defence Force Central Band

Furthermore, not only were there concerts in the park and the actual venue tent designed for the marching shows, this year the organizers surprised the public by managing to engage the old gardens of the old fortress town to the festival as well, giving an opportunity to both the bands to play in rather intimate atmospheres in different settings and the townspeople to visit and see the secret sides of the old houses that are part of the town's history. Like so many others, yours truly hopes that the experiment will continue to be developed further, as it was a splendid way to spend the day sitting in the gardens and listening to the music designed to make the sunlight and heat feel a bit more tolerable.

Also, to those doubting if they would like to spend a whole week dedicated to all kinds of marching music and stoic performances of mind-blowing accuracy with rifles and such without going slightly crazy and waking up with Karelia Suite III Alla Marcia ringing in their heads, it's a pleasure to assure that the music played in Hamina Tattoo is never restricted only to militarian aspects of notation and top notch drum solo. The bands are more than eager to show their skills with various ensembles diving into the diversity of both classical and popular music, as was seen and heard during the perfect performance of the japanese music corps conducted by colonel Akira Takeda and by some smaller ensembles of the said band. To the ones curious for what they played, search for the musician Taro Hakase and the song Jounetsu Tairiku. If an opportunity ever arises, do go and hear it for yourselves what it sounds like when eleven military bands are brought into one tiny town for a full week and then being told to go creative.

All being said, the escape tour from Helsinki continues when tomorrow morning in early dawn a certain little lady takes her route towards a certain little town that's located right between Germany and Denmark. But first off, the evening tea is in order.

Monday, May 19, 2014

May - wait, what?

Been a while to post anything here, not to mention even sharing any thoughts to this direction. The sole reason for this mishap is the beginning of the end of our Spring semester at the university, moreover (as my odd natural talents for ending up doing things have it) the more recent excuse being me using the last weeks of the said period as a lecturer's assistant here in our department.

Yet the said new albeit temporary position in the academical hierarchy system isn't, naturally, the only reason as to why I'm lacking in updates on several fields of my choices of interest, the biggest being the thesis. The studies have kept me quite closely tied to themselves in forms of the last pragmatic field periods about which I posted a brief mention in the earlier post, not to mention seeing that I indeed in just couple of weeks will have all the course credits that I need to get myself out from our grand institution lecture-wise as soon as I finally wrap up the Last Essay of Pedagogical Trivia. How I actually managed to find some time to get tied up in a full-body harness for taking photographs for the final work, or baking cookies for a hanami festival picnic for that matter is beyond my common comprehension for now, so I'll just let it pass as some strange loophole in the current warp of dimensions that I'm venturing in.

The springtime has been busy, I admit.

Nevertheless, being busy doesn't mean that it hasn't been fun to play around with, so with this post I'll give you guys a glimpse of what I've been up to the past months.




Saw some pretty neat artist's books the students had made, now my hands are itching to make a couple myself.

TREASURE FROM THE ARCHIVES: in January, a colleague of mine, Roel Meijs, and his friend had a rather secretive spatial sculpture exhibition in a storage warehouse here in Helsinki.

The idea was to send them a reply email to the invitation, after which the visitor received a message with several number series and door numbers, behind which the made works were found. They were all very different, and worked with the space in very intriguing manner, and all in all adventuring in total silence in a huge, dimly lit storage space did make the thoughts wander to an anime series Cowboy Bebop, which might ring a bell for those having seen it for what kind of nicely bizarre ambiance I experienced there. To bump into an old russian lady listening to a radio there was just a cherry on top of that.


It was a large, very beautiful swamp area, and we bumped into dozens of frogs croaking away through the silence.

RECEIVED A PARCEL FROM A FRIEND WHO LIVES IN ALBERSTLUND NEAR COPENHAGEN; we once had a discussion over what kinds of sweets we like, and she decided to send me some Danish delights. Not one to receive without giving, I sent her some quality white teas that had some jasmine in them.

ALSO RECEIVED A PARCEL FROM PATRICIA, only this time with the letter and treats she also sent us origami cranes that now decorate our kitchen wall. We'll be visiting her the coming August again, so be prepared to have yet another post about Flensburg..and perhaps from some other places.

All in all, the summer is near, the research books are waiting, and there's a pot of oolong that has been calling my name for a while now. Maybe next time I can tease you with some snapshots of the shibari sessions we've had regarding the final work that should be given to be evaluated in October. I'll see you guys around.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Poetical conundrums and excited alpha signals - Brains on Art is here again

The springtime has hit the city once again, and yours truly has indeed tried to break the sound barrier more than twice during the past months as both the work and final courses at the university seem to have made a pack between them to keep me more than sufficiently busy until the beginning of summer. As the things are, the latest small moral victory on those fields was achieved with a group of twenty-seven students, six digital cameras and six computers that were used to create short stop-motion animations in small groups. I'll let your imagination fill in the blanks on that case.

Beside the final pragmatic period which includes the aforementioned animation course as well a couple more with different classes in the delightful world of secondary school filled with teenage spirit, the spring in the gallery Sculptor has proceeded onwards towards the summertime. Even though most of my time is currently dedicated on surviving the swamp called 'master studies', I did find myself standing on the large ladders in one evening when I was asked to go and set the lights for the current exhibition that they're having there. If you're interested in rather interesting bronze and ceramic sculptures of Markku Hirvelä, that's the place to go when having enough free-time.

In any case, this post wasn't all about me rambling about the ways of procrastinating when it comes to writing the thesis, but about a collective of five gentlemen who have already made their debut in one of the past posts.

The collective calling themselves Brains on Art presents their latest and past achievements when in comes to combining science and art together into an intriguing and entertaining collection of works that appeal to the natural curiosity and speculative questioning of human nature. This exhibition has a total of seven works, of which three of them use the EEG helmets, one is a video installation called 'The Suit' which is a recreation of a performance they once did and also an interactive piece, and the last three are more or less visual eyecandy flavored with a hint of scientific approach on aesthetical ways of presenting both the artistic process as well the beauty of human brain. For the more encoding-oriented members of the audience, the white screen showing all of the source code used in the exhibited works was appreciated and enjoyed, giving them a rather nice insight on what exactly the quintet of gentlemen have been working on for the past couple of years.

A work called 'Carbon Copy' even shared a very vague resemblance with the artworks of Nam June Paik, which was nice to realize after briefly wondering why it felt so familiar. Even more delightful was to see one part of the mentioned work being used in a performance that was presented in the opening, where the artist wore a black helmet that slowly produced a long sheet of receipt paper that had the performer's brainwave activity printed on it. The most pleasant suprise concerning the said performance was, though, that the audience actually created a connection with the performer and even took the initiative to approach him by, for instance, giving him some wine in a plastic cup.

Nevertheless, the best cookies in the methaphorical jar were the three EEG-focused works, two of them already being exhibited before and the third being the newest addition to the bunch. For those who have read my earlier post about 'Brain Poetry' can already guess what one of the works was that made people giggle and shake their heads in disbelief in one corner of the small gallery space.

For those who have not yet encountered this piece nor have read the linked post, here's the essential information behind it: this particular work is connected to the research concentrating on computational creativity, a subject which is interesting also from a future teacher's view, and hereby uses the combination of brain signals and mathematical algorithms to generate a poem fitting the data that it receives from the person using the EEG helmet. For this piece they have used different sources of literature, and based on the raw data given by the user's brain, the codes search out the most suitable category within the different themes such as, say, poetry from the early 20th century or modern novels, and then create the actual poem.

Although what really made me glad to re-encounter the poem generator was that the group had updated it to produce both Finnish and English poems, which, given the people I've gotten acquainted with and the constantly evolving linguistic dimensions of our society, was more than welcome.

The other work that was programmed in a similar way was the one that was shown in the very first picture in this post, namely the 'Visually Evoked Potential'. It could basically be described as the visual companion for the 'Brain Poetry', with slight changes to the way it creates new things from the collected data. In that case the viewer is showed ten random images, and based on what signals the brain gives to the code regarding, say, the eye-movements of the viewer and the levels of emotion experienced with each image, the generator slowly produces a cross-breed (if one could call that) image of all ten images as the result of the collected and processed data. This work in particular provoked long speculative discussions among us who tried it, and I have yet to try it a couple more times to really understand if my mind really produces quite indentical results regardless of what my conscious mind focuses on with each picture. Nevertheless, it's slightly addicting.

Though the most addicting one of the entertaining three is a work named 'It's not just in your head'. Here the group has built three quite ordinary-looking white pedestals on which they've placed clear small domes with tiny white marbles beneath them. Inside the pedestals and underneath the domes are located three loud-speakers that are tuned in to respond to different levels of brain signals, such as the alpha and delta signals. Above the person using the needed EEG helmet is a tiny receptor that receives the signals and then transmits them to the three speakers waiting for the data. As the result, the white marbles move more or less wildly depending on how strong and continuous the signals are.

When it comes to controlling the marbles or trying to make each of the speakers respond to the signals, it was fun to observe how different methods were put to use by each user when they tried to figure out what signal moved which marbles and why. Thinking about a melody while keeping the eyes closed was, by far, the most rewarding method for myself to make the tiny balls go crazy beneath the domes.

All in all, if one is looking for a reason to step outside and enjoy the chill spring air with some sun and badass winds that make even the winter seem like a warmer option, go to gallery Huuto in Jätkäsaari and check out if there's still some brain activity left after the dark snowy season that has finally relinquished its hold on Helsinki. I bet you'll be quite surprised.

Gallery Huuto, Jätkäsaari 2 (trams n:o 9 and 8 bring you quite close to it)
From 27th of March to 13th of April
Tue-Sun from 12 to 5 pm.