Henni Alftan

Henni Alftan

Candidate 2023

In Henni Alftan’s canvases, an entwined sense of the familiar and the uncanny keeps viewers actively looking and guessing. Everyday subjects such as domestic interiors, outdoor scenes, personal belongings and figures appear anything but commonplace through the artist’s precise manipulations of paint and composition. 

Introduction

Henni Alftan

In Henni Alftan’s canvases, an entwined sense of the familiar and the uncanny keeps viewers actively looking and guessing. Everyday subjects such as domestic interiors, outdoor scenes, personal belongings and figures appear anything but commonplace through the artist’s precise manipulations of paint and composition.

Alftan creates her pictures from a rigorous process of building form and color from personal observations; working in the studio, she constructs each image from notes and sketches, generating closely cropped scenes that challenge us to contemplate not only what we are seeing, but also what we cannot see beyond the canvas edge.

By nature figurative, Alftan’s works also play with abstraction, exploring the elusive point at which paint is perceived to depict things other than itself—dashed strokes take on the guise of knitwear, black curves turn into eyeliner, and thin washes of color become reflections in a mirror, or in a knife. Recurring windows, doorways, and other framing devices also point literally and metaphorically to the act of viewing, in intimate paintings that describe, rather than represent, the visual world.

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Tuomas A. Laitinen

Tuomas A. Laitinen

Candidate 2023

Artist Tuomas A. Laitinen works with video installations, sound, glass as well as chemical and microbial processes. He is interested in ecological issues, the formation of proposals for knowledge, and porous systems.

Introduction

Tuomas A. Laitinen

Artist Tuomas A. Laitinen works with video installations, sound, glass as well as chemical and microbial processes. He is interested in ecological issues, the formation of proposals for knowledge, and porous systems. In recent years, Laitinen has been working extensively with octopuses, producing biomorphic glass habitats for these lifeforms.

Laitinen’s layered and multi-sensorial installations ask questions about the activity and reactions in different ecosystems, moving seamlessly from microscopical particles to society’s power structures to mythologies. Laitinen’s works are proposals for symbiotic contact zones, where different lifeforms and materials are entangled in shapeshifting continuums. Continuous change and material transparency are key features of the works. Laitinen has been influenced by science fiction and philosophies of science and technology that seek new practices for coexistence on Earth.

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Lap-See Lam

Lap-See Lam

Candidate 2023

The installation artist Lap-See Lam (born 1990 Stockholm) explores the Cantonese diaspora in Sweden. She uses technology like 3D-scanning, Virtual Reality and animation to tackle different projects like cataloging the interiors of quickly disappearing Chinese restaurants in Stockholm.

Introduction

Lap-See Lam

The installation artist Lap-See Lam (born 1990 Stockholm) explores the Cantonese diaspora in Sweden. She uses technology like 3D-scanning,  Virtual Reality and animation to tackle different projects like cataloging the interiors of quickly disappearing Chinese restaurants in Stockholm.

She frequently draws on her family’s history, as in Mother’s Tongue (2018), a video installation created with her cousin, Director Wingyee Wu. The film captures the interiors of endangered Chinese restaurants; drawing on her own family’s experience as restaurant owners in Stockholm, she combines the visuals with fictionalized monologues by three generations of women who discuss their working experiences.

Lap-SeeLam continued the theme in Phantom Banquet (2019), produced for the Performa 19 Art Biennial in New York, to examine how artificially created environments can have the power to shape identity. In 2020, Lam was named by American Forbes as one of Europe’s most promising young people in art and culture.

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Emilija Škarnulyté

Emilija Škarnulyté

Candidate 2023

The multidisciplinary artist and filmmaker, Emilija Škarnulytė has long been attuned to the stories that have shaped the transition from modern humanism to the post-human condition of perpetual crisis, critical hope, and a return to allegory as a means of comprehending the self and the Other within the maelstrom of radical change known as the twenty-first century. 

Introduction

Emilija Škarnulyté

The multidisciplinary artist and filmmaker, Emilija Škarnulytė has long been attuned to the stories that have shaped the transition from modern humanism to the post-human condition of perpetual crisis, critical hope, and a return to allegory as a means of comprehending the self and the Other within the maelstrom of radical change known as the twenty-first century. 

Born in Vilnius, Lithuania, in 1987, Škarnulytė is a consummate explorer—a role necessary for an artist whose primary concerns are global concerns. Educated in Italy and Norway, and working in Berlin and Tromsø, she draws inspiration from ecologically unique locales as far flung and storied as the Arctic Circle, the deserts of the American West, the deserts of the Middle East, nuclear power stations of Europe, Cold War bases, ancient civilizations lost to the seas, and aphotic zones. And, in a vertiginous sense, she links the historical significance of these locales to the quantum and microscopic phenomena that constitute the infinitesimal building blocks of the world with a cinematic vision that scales the more-than-microscopic and to the astronomical. 

These geographical locales and dimensional layers serve as the contexts for her speculative “archaeological” films that reflect on the current world from an imagined future perspective in which the conscious being critically investigates the long-term ecological ramifications of the anthropocentric present. As such, they appear as points of reference in her meditative works, which often position modern myths—like the mystique of the nuclear age—within the grander context of geological deep time in order to ask how did we get here? 

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Camille Norment

Camille Norment

Candidate 2023

Camille Norment is an interdisciplinary multimedia artist, composer, and performer whose art and performance works are exhibited and performed worldwide.

Introduction

Camille Norment

Camille Norment is an interdisciplinary multimedia artist, composer, and performer whose art and performance works are exhibited and performed worldwide.

Cultural psychoacoustics is both an aesthetic and conceptual framework for much of her practice – the investigation of socio-cultural phenomena through the sonic as a force over the body, mind, and society. Composing artworks through forms including recorded sound, sculpture and installation, drawing, and live performance, she applies this concept towards the creation of critical artworks that are preoccupied with the way in which context, form, space, and the body of the viewer create experiences that are both somatic and cognitive.

Camille Norment has completed several commissioned works to public spaces. In her current exhibition “Plexus” in Dia Chelsea, New York, Norment has united two large-scale sculptural and sonic installations in the postindustrial spaces of 541 and 545 West 22nd Street through a single sonic composition, with each space forming a dynamic and reflective acoustic environment.
Norment has also performed at institutions including the Munch Museum, Oslo (2021); Renaissance Society, University of Chicago (with Hamid Drake, 2019); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (with Craig Taborn, 2019). Norment’s work “Triplight” was featured at the entrance of the MoMA during the exhibition “Soundings: A Contemporary Score” (2013) and sound installation “Within the Toll” at Henie Onstad Kunstsenter (2011).

Norment represented Norway in the 2015 Venice Biennale and has since participated in the Kochi-Muziris (2016), Montreal (2016), Lyon (2017), and Thailand (2018) biennials. She is prorector of research at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts. She lives in Oslo.

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Viggo Wallensköld

Viggo Wallensköld

Candidates 2021

Viggo Wallensköld, depicts life’s absurdity through a series of fictional characters. Over the years, his works, which typically feature just one main character, have come together to form a cohesive entity, a universe all of their own, comprising a series of intertwining themes.

About

Viggo Wallensköld

Viggo Wallensköld began his artistic training at the University of Helsinki’s Piirrustusluokka art class. In 2005, he was named Finland’s Young Artist of the Year. To date, he has held eight exhibitions at the Bäcksbacka Konstsalong gallery. His latest solo show in Helsinki was at Galleria Halmetoja in 2020. He has also exhibited widely in other venues both in Finland and further afield, and his works are featured in leading Finnish art collections. Viggo Wallensköld has published four fiction titles, with the latest two released under the Kustannusosakeyhtiö Siltala imprint.

Painter and author Viggo-Wentzel Renato-Bogislaus Cathmor-Adlerwalt Wallensköld, aka Viggo Wallensköld, depicts life’s absurdity through a series of fictional characters. Over the years, his works, which typically feature just one main character, have come together to form a cohesive entity, a universe all of their own, comprising a series of intertwining themes.

Wallensköld’s paintings explore the physical diversity of humans and our ability to cope with difference. He himself has said that his paintings emerge from a sense of shame, his own experience of otherness. From the early 2000s onwards, he has explored body positivity and non-binary identities. His treatment of these topics is characterised by its restraint and emotional deftness. The people depicted in his paintings do not represent a stereotypical physicality but nevertheless expect to be seen. Visibility matters.

As the artist himself has acknowledged, there is always a touch of the autobiographical in his paintings featuring people, but they are by no means self-portraits, or even portraits for that matter. Often, his imaginary subjects have borrowed poses, outfits and even facial expressions from the artist’s old family photographs, from people Wallensköld himself has never met.

The main character featuring across his literary works is a mycologist that bears more than a passing resemblance to Wallensköld’s father, who himself is an artist with a passion for fungi. The Rabelais-esque atmosphere of Wallensköld’s experimental novels is complemented with illustrations created by the artist himself. Rendered in watercolour and ink using his sublime and highly distinctive technique, his book illustrations have been compiled into series and included in various museum collections.

In technical terms, Wallensköld’s creative process is one of functionality – the approach is determined by the desired outcome and atmosphere. Wallensköld’s brushwork technique ranges from light, single layers of colour to repeated applications of pigment that results in an even finish. The temperature and temperament of his works range from highly expressive to calm tranquillity.

A key theme among Wallensköld’s paintings of people is the link between the organic and the inorganic, between man and machine. His perhaps best-known work on this theme is the machine-human, where a person’s head or another part of their body is connected to a machine that maintains its functions. The machine can be switched on and off, it can be set in hibernation mode or placed on a windowsill, like an ornament. And yet it is partially comprised of an intelligent, sentient person, to whose thoughts we are granted no access. Wallensköld offers us a wonderfully straightforward take on the highly topical and relevant issues of AI, robots and humanity. He deconstructs this angst-inducing topic with considerable skill, rendering it accessible and relatable.

The links between the animate and the inanimate are also the theme running through Wallensköld’s cemetery-themed works, where gravestones and memorials are used to construct portraits of the dead. As with historic photographs, Wallensköld has the ability to bring headstones and plaques to life. Stories build up around them, making their subjects feel real.

When real people are featured in Wallensköld’s portraiture, he often pairs them with an attribute. These symbols are chosen for their ability to open those depicted up to our interpretation. Rather than reaching for birds, cloaks or arrows as commonly seen in religious art, Wallensköld uses a range of everyday, instantly familiar items: bookshelves, furniture, toys. From time to time, a single item is not enough, and he creates an entire interior around his subject, evoking a time and a place that doesn’t exist but can be effortlessly imagined.

Veikko Halmetoja  |  Translation: Liisa Muinonen Martin

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Eija-Liisa Ahtila

Eija-Liisa Ahtila

Ars fennica 2021

Visual artist and filmmaker Eija-Liisa Ahtila experiments with narration and form in her works that address the gendered, colonial and anthropocentric structures haunting the everyday and its representations.

About

Eija-Liisa Ahtila

Visual artist and filmmaker Eija-Liisa Ahtila experiments with narration and form in her works that address the gendered, colonial and anthropocentric structures haunting the everyday and its representations.

In Ahtila’s earlier moving image installations the protagonists of the human dramas are in a constant state of becoming, entangled in a web of intimate relations woven across generations, historical and geographical distances, and beyond human kinship. The works subtly unsettle normative understandings of rational agency and individualised sense of self in the face of death, the suffering of others, or mental breakdown.

During the last decade she has explored what an ecology of drama could be, that includes also more-than-human actors and their perspectives: how to allow another animal than human, or a tree or the wind, to take the centre stage in cinematic narratives? As protagonists, how might they challenge the conventions of both moving image and exhibition spaces? Works such as Horizontal and Studies on the Ecology of Drama experiment with expanding representation and narration towards these coexisting diverse temporal rhythms and spatial scales of lived experience.

In Ahtila’s multi-channel installations the storylines are pieced together by the spectators as they navigate between multiple parallel views on the scenes of events. The protagonists often address their words to the viewers, drawing them further into the unfolding narrative and cinematic space. Spoken language has increasingly given way to other sounds, while the works have become less tightly scripted. For example, Potentiality for Love offers viewers a silent situation, a space to dwell on the uncertain boundary between oneself and others, while attending to the possibility of empathy that recognises irreducible differences.

Ahtila’s current work is concerned with how to depict and make sense of reality at the time of urgent ecological crises. How can art and moving image adapt to the changing world? What kind of shifts in perspectives and perceptions could align with the ongoing transformations in worldviews and in our interdependent relations?

Taru Elfving

Expert's statement

// Hans Ulrich Obrist

Alexis Pauline-Gumbs said: ‘We have the opportunity now, as a species fully in touch with each other (think social media), to unlearn and relearn our own patterns of thinking and storytelling in a way that allows us to be actually in communion with our environment as opposed to a dominating, colonialist separation from the environment.’

It is an honour for me to be involved in this wonderful Ars Fennica project and it has been a difficult decision to nominate a winner for this year’s Ars Fennica Award from such an incredible list of artists. I felt it is urgent to recognise the visionary practice of Eija-Liisa Ahtila.
Ahtila has done exemplary work for more than three decades and continues to make work that is urgent for the 21st century as one of the most important artists of our time. There are many reasons why I have chosen Ahtila to be the recipient of the Ars Fennica Award.

Ahtila has always bridged disciplines, working as a visual artist as well as a filmmaker and since the nineties pioneering the bringing together of moving image and installation work.
An important aspect is how most of her works, particularly in the last decades, have to do with the environment. In these works, the forest, its vegetation, and our natural surroundings are characters as important as human beings. This connects her to Édouard Glissant. Her work is not merely about ecology, it develops what Manthia Diawara calls a poetics of ecology.

Ahtila also makes me think of the importance of long term, as her process is a long durational one in this world of short termism. I have always admired the fact that both her way of working as well as her works themselves concern this. She has, for example, worked on her thesis for decades, she works over several years on her films, and her research is incredibly thorough: when we did the studio visit for Ars Fennica, Ahtila’s studio was filled with documents on the wall. It almost looked like a Warburgian Atlas of images and of found texts, based on an associative principle.
Ahtila’s work inter alia interrogates the anthropocentric nature of the moving image. The artist has created a more balanced image of life on our planet, which is not anthropocentric. She finds visual approaches and storytelling that show a way out of anthropocentrism and open up the space for non-human species to enter our imaginary realm. In these images, non-humans and humans can co-exist, trees can be protagonists in her stories.

The topics Ahtila deals with are very vast and that is why she approaches them from many different angels over many years, like a continuum. There is an amazing way in which she always shows us alternative viewpoints on things, like a puzzle whereby the elements are not two dimensional but form a three-dimensional puzzle in which she connects to the real. Ahtila really invented a methodology for an ecological moving image. Her work is urgent for this century and that is why I have chosen her as the recipient of the Ars Fennica Award.

Hans Ulrich Obrist

Curator

Hans Ulrich Obrist Hans Ulrich Obrist (b. 1968, Zurich, Switzerland) is Artistic Director of the Serpentine Galleries in London, Senior Advisor at LUMA Arles, and Senior Artistic Advisor at The Shed in New York. Prior to this, he was the Curator of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Since his first show “World Soup” (The Kitchen Show) in 1991, he has curated more than 350 shows.

Obrist’s recent publications include Ways of Curating (2015), The Age of Earthquakes (2015), Lives of the Artists, Lives of Architects (2015), Mondialité (2017), Somewhere Totally Else (2018) The Athens Dialogues (2018), Maria Lassnig: Letters (2020), Entrevistas Brasileiras: Volume 2 (2020), and 140 Ideas for Planet Earth (2021).

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Jesper Just

Jesper Just

Candidates 2021

Jesper Just became known some twenty years ago for videos in which tense psychological encounters lead to emotionally loaded scenes. What has happened, or was happening, is not quite clear.  No one of the characters is speaking, but there may be a song accompanying the situation or the characters may communicate by singing.

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About

Jesper Just

Jesper Just became known some twenty years ago for videos in which tense psychological encounters lead to emotionally loaded scenes. What has happened, or was happening, is not quite clear.  No one of the characters is speaking, but there may be a song accompanying the situation or the characters may communicate by singing.

The chosen places of the films are different.  In the early work No Man Is an Island I (2002) the scene is a city park while its sequel is staged in an old-fashioned way decorated and somewhat seedy-looking bar.  In the first version, an older man is singing and dancing in the park attracting the attention of the passers-by and some of them remain to observe the situation. A little boy, however, gladly starts imitating the dance movements, while others curiously follow the unfolding scene.

The role of the place was crucial when Jesper Just represented Denmark in the Venice biennale 2013.  He studied in-depth the Danish biennale pavilion, both its spatial and material qualities, in order to build a scene where the viewers’ movements were choregraphed by the artist. He has commented that the idea for these routes was often based on the model of the traditional English garden with its changing spaces and situations. The route of the spectator becomes part of the total experience and thus also of the entire work.  One of the main ideas of his installations is the transformation of a passive onlooker into an active participant.

Exhibition space presents a continuous challenge and inspiration. Jesper Just organizes and designs an installation into a set for the performance to be staged therein. This includes the choreography that guides the viewers’ way of engaging in the scene. 

The exhibition space is a stage for the performers, a scene that also shapes the viewers’ experience while it also serves as backdrop for the films/ LED sculptures on view. A specific aspect here is the hybridization of the functions and roles of both the public and the performers, both in live situations and as documented in film while the stage/scene is either a static setting or undergoing continuous modulations.  

Jesper Just is very aware of the emotional imagery of traditional moving pictures which he utilises in a conscious manner while also adapting them to the rhythms and goals of his own artistic work. A particular kind of passive melancholy haunts also the scene with LED sculptures in the installation Corporealités (2020).  The work tells how ballet dancers trained to the extreme use electric impulses to strengthen or re-train their weakened or injured muscles.

Jesper Just describes the work as follows:

“In Corporealités we see dancers standing, sitting, or lying on the floor. All the dancers are connected to one another in a circuit: hand to foot, head to toe, hand to hand. Through an electronic muscle stimulation system (EMS), electrical impulses are sent via electrodes into the dancers’ muscles.  The targeted muscles react by contracting. The bodies do not dance here, they are being danced.  It is a depersonalized circuit with no defined sender.

The music played is Gabriel Faure’s Pavane and it is both the soundtrack while also an active presence.

The music is romantic. In a ballet performance, the dancers would have expressed it by their bodies following the choreography. Now, there is a shift in emotions; sensitivity is appearing somewhere else. Thus, displacement is an overall theme in the work.”

Jesper Just’s recent installations “explore ideas of agency, performativity, and interpassivity”. The term interpassivity was defined by Robert Phaller and Slavoj Žižek in the 1990s.   He has told of the role of the concept in his work: “… it is basically delegating emotions and feelings, having other people experiencing your emotions on your behalf.” *)

The wordless atmosphere in this film seems to reflect a kind of collective state devoid of illusions and imbued by a feeling of contemporaneous melancholy. The work is reverberating the awkward imperfections of life as encountered even among the ballet dancers trained to perfection.

Maaretta Jaukkuri

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Anne-Karin Furunes

Anne-Karin Furunes

Candidates 2021

A repeating theme in Anne-Karin Furunes’ art is that of the female character victim to historic events beyond her control.  She uses different archives to search for pictures that move her. 

About

Anne-Karin Furunes

A repeating theme in Anne-Karin Furunes’ art is that of the female character victim to historic events beyond her control.  She uses different archives to search for pictures that move her.  These small photographs, originally taken for bureaucratic purposes, are enlarged into paintings often over two metres in height. She tells us that she often goes to an archive with a specific theme in mind, but then finds something unexpected and surprising which has been classified as marginal and without proper identification in the archive world.

What she discovers in the archives are the human beings behind the historical destinies that they have been subjected to. These documentary photographs have often been taken under extreme conditions: Jews due to be deported to Nazi Germany, victims of eugenics when it was still carried out in Sweden, criminals in prisons.

In 2014 Anne-Karin Furunes had an exhibition at the Palazzo Fortuny where she presented large-scale portraits of women who had worked at the palace studio of theatre and fashion designer Mariano Fortuny. She has also made a series of pictures in aluminium of former patients from the San Servolo psychiatric hospital, nowadays a museum in Venice.  These were exhibited in situ in the beautiful park surrounding the institute.

The faces in Furunes’ portraits have usually been stripped of all the attributes that would reveal their historical time and social position. The faces are naked; we see serious and worried gazes, likely unaware of the atrocities that they are doomed to undergo. And yet, through Furunes’ skilful technique, the paintings manage to reveal something of their historical time and social position but also of their personalities.

The technique that Anne-Karin Furunes uses is based on piercing holes of various sizes into canvas or paper by hand. When producing work to be exhibited outdoors, she uses aluminium plates and creates the holes with a machine. The canvas is usually soaked in black paint, and the picture emerges from the grid that the pierced holes create by letting light shine through in varying degrees depending on the sizes of the holes. She has developed this technique for about three decades and today masters it to the minutest detail.

The result creates an optical effect that changes according to the lighting conditions of the exhibition space as well as the movements of the onlooker. The picture becomes an event, a moment of communication between the eyes of the portrayed person and the viewer. The layers of historical events disappear as we face the gaze of another human being.

Maaretta Jaukkuri

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Magnus Wallin

Magnus Wallin

Candidates 2021

Magnus Wallin’s art constitutes an exploration of the human body. It is not just the relationship between bodies and norms that fascinates Magnus Wallin, but how many permutations of these bodies there are, and how they constitute different modes of understanding.

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Magnus Wallin

Magnus Wallin’s art constitutes an exploration of the human body. His range is expansive, encompassing everything from 3D animation, such as his Exit from 1997 showing us deformed and crippled figures, like something out of Hieronymus Bosch, crawling their way through a video game-style setting, hunted by a wall of flames, to works where the list of materials alone reads like a particularly macabre brand of poetry: “3 human skulls installed at a height of 220 centimetres” complete with round, square and star-shaped fontanelles like in a shape sorting game (Method, 2011); works that demonstrate how totalitarian political and aesthetic representations have aligned with science’s normative lack of humanity; and works that exquisitely expose our physical vulnerability, like I live here from 1994, that forces viewers to press themselves up against a wall lest they get bitten by an aggressive dog.

But it is not just the relationship between bodies and norms that fascinates Magnus Wallin, but how many permutations of these bodies there are, and how they constitute different modes of understanding. Shot using an infrared camera, Educated (2007) shows us a thermal body that exhibits completely different behaviours and is subject to completely different limitations than its flesh-and-blood counterparts. The artist frequently employs skeletons to illustrate different aspects of human behaviour, like in Colony (2009) where these human chassis inhabit a frozen landscape, impervious to the cold, producing sexual desire instead of blood cells. Body parts are frequently seen seeking passion and companionship, like in Elements (2011), where visceral organs and skeletons are seen waiting to take their place in a larger organism, which Wallin has designated as the “social body” (in his Exercise Parade from 2001, this takes the form of walls that breathe).

In Wallin’s installations films are more physical and objects more filmic than they ordinarily are, perhaps because his stirring and compelling work is a visceral viewing experience and this new way of seeing creates images that are as alienating as those produced by a camera. In Unnamed (2016, 2017), Wallin has taken photographs of medical textbooks on physical abnormalities and turned them into something akin to moving images and in those moving images representation becomes a living thing. The effect is stunning, bewildering. On occasion, he has managed to animate the images simply by suspending the projectors from ropes that generate a minimal amount of movement, making these bodies appear as though they are breathing and as though they are watching the viewer in turn. Such is the precision at work here that it can reach into your very soul. Once there, it makes its demand on the viewer: now look at this as if you were a human being.

Lars Erik Hjertström
Translation: Liisa Muinonen Martin

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