In the video piece Lost Dog (2015) a man talks on the phone with people whose pets have gone missing. We only hear his voice, yet the tones and changes in the conversations expose the nature of the calls. While the piece reveals the need for inter-human connections, it simultaneously unpacks the difficulty of building trust or forming bonds with new people.
Originally, Emilia Ukkonen was planning to film a documentary of pet-owners in NYC who had lost their pets, but communication became an unexpected dilemma. Often, dogs, cats and other animals act as important companions in lieu of close human relationships, which have become increasingly difficult to maintain within a society so focused on individuality and independence. When she contacted people about their lost pets, via the notices and fliers that line the city, she found many had no time or inclination to speak to her. Inadvertently her queries caused suspicion, even aggression, and those who were interested preferred to talk about all sorts of topics other than their lost pets.
The video piece now seen at Hippolyte Studio is the different direction Ukkonen ultimately takes after abandoning the documentary format. We look and listen to a man’s various telephone conversations with people whose pets have disappeared. His attempts to reach the people behind the fliers are interpreted as a cruel joke or, at worst, veiled attempts at blackmail. The starting point of Ukkonen’s work was to try and follow the emotional connections people develop with animals within an urban environment. The work professes the difficulties in creating mutuality with fellow humans, despite a wistful desire for contact.
Lost Dog utilizes only some of Ukkonen’s gathered material, and a further audio recording will be publicly available on Hippolyte’s Vimeo channel during the exhibition.
Emilia Ukkonen (b. 1983) often employs absurdity while observing reality, and recognizes that it is framed by her own unique perspective. She utilizes the medium of the moving image as well as additional techniques in her work. Ukkonen studied at the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki and the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm. After returning from New York, she now resides in Helsinki. Lost Dog was shown at Marion De Cannière Art Space in Antwerp, Belgium, at the Turku Art Museum’s Darkroom and in several film festivals.
2–25 February 2018
Exhibition open: Tue–Fri 12:00–17:00, Sat–Sun 12:00–16:00
image: Emilia Ukkonen, Lost Dog, 2015 (videostill)