The new series The Man Comes Around by Wilma Hurskainen explores a crucial turning point in the history of humanity; a point where climate change, overpopulation and a rapid decline in biodiversity threaten the whole of Western civilization. In the photographs of Hurskainen, this crisis comes to be represented by the ageing, white heterosexual male, a man in charge, a character who literally owns the world. However, this powerful patriarch now seems vulnerable and insecure – his glory days are behind him.
The myth of the Finnish man who rarely utters a word and keeps everything to himself applies especially to the baby boomer generation; despite living in peacetime, he has also lived in the middle of dramatic changes. This generation has lived through an era of frenzied post-war reconstruction and developmental optimism, and been present at both the building and the gradual dismantling of the welfare state. Recently they have found themselves facing the insecurity of the global world, where social and civic engagement have been reduced to consumerism or to bitter blaming of the alleged opponent. The head of the family has been dethroned and the digital revolution has left a lot of people nearly illiterate.
There is a much vaster repertoire of imaginable male representations for younger generations of men compared to their older counterparts. However, when photographed, this average human being – the ageing, white heterosexual man – is free of expectations. His body does not pose in the hope of resembling a certain ideal, but remains what it is.
Hurskainen´s photographs depict a man who, in a changing world, is trying to make it on his own terms. The male patriarch is a contradictory embodiment of power and powerlessness, arrogance and fear, holding on to his Western way of life even if the road is giving way under the weight of his SUV.
The artwork of Wilma Hurskainen (born in 1979 in Vantaa) engages with themes of memory and personal history, as well as questions relating to the coexistence of humans and other species. Hurskainen has studied photography at Lahti Design Institute and Aalto University. She has had several solo exhibitions in Europe and participated in numerous group exhibitions in Europe, Russia and Japan. Hurskainen has published two monographs: Growth, 2008 (Musta Taide) and Heiress, 2012 (Kerber). Her works can be found in such collections as The Finnish Museum of Photography, Helsinki Art Museum, The Danish National Museum of Photography and Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts.
22 May – 18 June 2015
The Man Comes Around
Photographic Gallery Hippolyte
Yrjönkatu 8–10 courtyard, 00120 Helsinki, Finland
+358 9 612 33 44, www.hippolyte.fi
Tue–Fri 12–17, Sat–Sun 12–16
(image: Wilma Hurskainen, Credible Threat, 2015)