Karl Ketamo’s exhibition Figures explores endless cause-and-effect relations of mass production, global mobility, and current geopolitical tensions. At the same time, the exhibition discusses issues associated to the creation of art—related to Walter Benjamin’s essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. What happens when the uniqueness of an artwork is replaced by mass replication, and the features that characterise art, such as exclusiveness, are questioned?
While preparing for the exhibition, Ketamo wandered around closed gas stations and flea markets, circled industrial parking lots, and rummaged around metal bins. With childlike enthusiasm, Ketamo felt he was looking for something unknown and new. Indefinite explorations and experiments in his mother’s garage led him to surprising discoveries. Gradually, the themes of the exhibition revealed further clarity, but the idea of producing new works became problematic. How can one justify the fabrication and global movement of goods in an already material-saturated environment?
The body of work on view at Photographic Hippolyte consists of photographs and sculptural installation. The actions reflect global themes in which Ketamo has taken a personal and an imagined societal perspective. In the exhibition, he presents an interpretation of the Machin stamp, a series used since 1967, which depicts Queen Elizabeth II. The series portrays a relief by British artist Arnold Machin, and it is said to be the most replicated art object in the world. Since the release of the series in June 1967, more than 220 billion copies have been printed. The installation of oil canister variations emphasises the difference between industrial and artistic production—the final result is always slightly altered, both physically and mentally.
In the exhibition, issues of production and value weave together an enormously complex and interdependent equation. Figures, as a title, reflects this same entanglement: on the one hand, figures may refer to artistic forms, and on the other social operating models can be conceptualised as structural forms. In his work, Ketamo makes use of the means of reproduction and representation. As an artist working mainly in photography, he uses a kind of negative-positive process to create sculptural objects—on occasion employing mould technology for duplication. Though opposite, these processes are not dissimilar to analogue photography, yielding relatable outcomes every time.
Karl Ketamo works in a multidisciplinary approach towards photography, moving image, sculpture, and more recently, installation. In his work, Ketamo makes use of the found images and objects, which he recycles and presents in a new manner. The cultural and political structures of the landscape are often the starting points for Ketamo’s works. Ketamo holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in photography from the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague (Netherlands). Currently, he is finalising his master studies in photography at Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture. Ketamo’s works have been on display, for example, at the Eye Film Institute in Amsterdam, the House of Representatives of the Dutch Parliament, the Photoville Photo Festival in New York, and the Finnish Museum of Photography in Helsinki. www.karlketamo.com
The exhibition is kindly supported by The Paulo Foundation, Arts Promotion Centre Finland, and Aalto University.
Photographic Gallery Hippolyte
Open: Tue-Fri 12-17, Sat-Sun 12-16
image: Karl Ketamo, (Un)Finished, installation detail, 2019