In the autumn of 2016, Elina Oikari spent two months in the medieval Italian village of Mazzano Romano during a residency with the Väinö Tanner Foundation. When undertaking long daily walks through the valley below the village, she focussed on the region’s landscape and ambiance, identifying several connections to Dante’s Divine Comedy. The events within the play’s first act, and Gustave Dorés’ accompanying illustrations, inspired Oikari’s articulation of the play within this body of work.
The Divine Comedy details a midlife pilgrimage through a forest and valley, then into the gates of hell. It begins with the words, “Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost”. Oikari discovered that Dante was roughly the same age as her when writing the play, which enhanced the resonance of its narrative. While the resulting works contain elements of the play’s darkness and tension, their primary approach to its themes can be seen to contain an existential and somewhat playful attitude that comes close to contemporary meanings of comedy.
The exhibition’s photograph and video works also attempt to capture common feelings experienced by many 30 to 40 year olds approaching Dante’s definition of middle age. In contemporary times, they are still understood as relatively young adults who may be encountering a future in a state of disillusionment with technology. Born in the 1980s, Generation Y have in some studies been described as the generation that fell between the cracks within the distribution of western economic welfare—they are likely to be indebted, and living precariously in a globalised aging society in which the cost of living is steadily escalating. The works speak to this generational experience of alienation through attempting to invoke an array of mental landscapes through natural forms.
Elina Oikari is a filmmaker and media artist based in Helsinki. She focuses on experimental intersections of visual and audio narratives in her works, which have been shown internationally in various film and music events, including cinema concerts. The themes in Oikari’s work draw upon dramatic tropes and experiences of alienation and otherness.
The exhibition has been kindly supported by the Finnish Cultural Fund’s Uusimaa Regional Fund and Väinö Tanner Foundation.
Among the Shadows
28 September – 21 October 2018
Open: Tue–Fri 12–17, Sat–Sun 12–16
image: Elina Oikari, As if I Was There, 2018