A path is a route trodden onto the ground by feet. It emerges where humans and animals wander. It is always sensible, walkable, and always in the right place: where a path is needed.
One can step off the path. One can meander and stroll about, get lost in the shrubbery and find a way back. Sometimes just walking the path is more important than finding the destination, the end of the path.
We are used to looking at photographs as something that awaits at the end of a path. It has been customary to think of a photograph as a crystallization of everything experienced, a closed entity, a perfect statement, a polished diamond.
But photography is in flux. Authorship is changing, structures of reality are coming into sight, torn down, and built again. Narratives and narratorships are changing. Documentary and conceptual photography are overlapping. Materialities are getting more layers and forms. Images are more and more often accompanied by text and archive materials. Auteurs are being replaced by collectives.
The questions about who has a say and who should be given a voice need answers. How to speak with another person’s voice, how can a voice be given? How to walk with an animal of a different species, or the nature?
How could one make the world a little more intelligible and thereby perhaps a little better? How could we turn towards and not against each other?
The Polku (translates as Path) library edition and exhibition comprises of artworks of artists whose themes and questions are in flux like an essay text: suggesting, meandering, and pondering. Essay is a text form that does not have to become finished. The most essential gesture of an essay is wandering about.
I have chosen works by both very young and more mature artists. In their works, documentary and conceptual, photographs and texts, and different materialities interconnect. Political and societal themes may be present, but not with ranting and bellowing but with showing and asking.
A photograph is a path.
Helsinki, New Year 2020
Lina Jelanski (b. 1984) is a young artist whose working method is recklessness. She makes photographs that have no self-clear references and goes to places where the more precautious of us would not seek to go. In her writings, the central themes are fear and impossibility, but her photographs are unusual, colourful, joyous—perhaps exactly what follows after conquering fear and impossibility.
Ulla Jokisalo (b. 1955) is the lighthouse island in the archipelago of Finnish photographic art. For decades, her unique works have showed way for others. Her photography develops but stays grounded, comes across as surprising but is always recognisable. The atmosphere of Jokisalo’s artworks is simultaneously melancholic and tender, serious and wild, absurd, but always completely truthful.
Jussi Kivi’s (b. 1959) working method is systematical wandering in non-landscapes, derelict, and forgotten places. Already for decades, he has produced extraordinary books and artworks that have an ethos of environmental awareness with a witty, even comical twist. Kivi works only with real objects and places, but yet is a bullet-proof romanticist.
The recent works of Heli Rekula (b. 1963) form an exhibition trilogy accompanied by two books. In her trilogy, Rekula reflects her personal history and authorship. In her subtle but powerful work, she researches different ways of utilising documentary elements and archives, and searches for the material edges of photography. What happens to a photograph when it is rendered into graphic prints?
In Aura Saarikoski’s (b. 1987) artwork, image, and text are equally important. In both her photographs and writings, Saarikoski is a skillful and educated essayist who gets lost in her subjects in a rich and sophisticated manner. Thick, grey, almost impenetrable fog is the central element, topic, and metaphor in her work.
Noora Sandgren (b. 1977) is a young artist who already has managed to create a personal and unique system of working—she gives voice to the smallest: the microbes in the compost. Sandgren’s collective working process together with bacteria and weather produces organic thinking and intriguingly baroque artworks that one cannot but marvel at.
The series Leftovers by Heidi Strengell (b. 1986) made an immediate impact when published in 2015. With her subtle portraits, Strengell gives a voice to those who no-one wants to hear nor see: the dogs abandoned in Spanish shelters. Later, Strengell made an insightful and powerful Master’s thesis for Aalto University on the same subject: how it is to be an animal.
Otto-Ville Väätäinen (b. 1979) works with the very essence of photography. In his images, we can see things that do not exist, that have existed only for the event of being photographed, and even then not for one solid moment but a sequence. The questions Väätäinen asks are all-embracing—what do we see in a photograph?—but his experimental working methods are particularised and elaborate.
Curator Hanna Weselius (b.1972) is a university lecturer of photography (Ph.D.) and a writer. She has a background in both photojournalism and visual arts, and has published journalistic, academic, and artistic texts on photography. Weselius has taught photography since the early 2000s. Currently, she is editing an essay compilation on photography and finishing her second novel.
The exhibition Polku, on view at Hippolyte Korjaamo, brings another addition to the photographic scene in Töölö, because since mid-January one can loan Finnish photographic artists’ works from the Töölö library, as part of Lainaa valokuvataidetta project (loosely transl. Loan Photographic Art) by Arts Promotion Centre and the Association of Photographic Artists. The artworks can also be purchased from the sales collection online, shop.hippolyte.fi. The Polku exhibition, which opens the Hippolyte Korjaamo exhibition program, presents in more detail the artists curated by photographer, author Hanna Weselius. The works on display at Hippolyte Korjaamo are also for sale, for more information please contact Photographic Gallery Hippolyte (director Henna Harri, 040 591 0770, henna.harri [at] hippolyte.fi).
Lina Jelanski, Ulla Jokisalo, Jussi Kivi, Heli Rekula, Aura Saarikoski, Noora Sandgren, Heidi Strengell, Otto-Ville Väätäinen
Kuraattorina Hanna Weselius
Korjaamo Culture Factory
Töölönkatu 51 a-b, 00250 Helsinki
Open during Korjaamo opening hours: Mon-Sun 11-20
image: Noora Sandgren, To compose – To decompose (microbes, 6 days), 2018
exhibition images: Milla Talassalo