Dramatis Personæ equals all the characters of a play, short story, or other narrative. In the sound piece created in Tiina Palmu’s exhibition, the ‘play’ or ‘story’ is considered more broadly as different forms—such as a life, gallery space, street, or thought. Its characters, Dramatis Personæ, are words, users of a language, and the countless roles held in the human psyche. In the gallery, 29 audio speakers repeat all the Finnish words listed in the Finnish Language Board’s Internet dictionary as read by the artist. Each of the speakers represents one letter of the alphabet. As they play simultaneously, the space is flooded with concepts and meanings arising from the crisscrossing of random word sequences, memories, and things learned.
The audience can move around, listening to the deluge of words as a whole or attempt to focus more closely on a particular sound source. Through small changes, the successive words take the listener from one association and mental image to another. Thus, the listeners can accidentally distinguish a story-like string of words from the mass, or a single word may carry one into a lengthy chain of thoughts. For example, the list of words beginning with oil takes its spectator from fossil energy sources through fine art painting to a waxed tablecloth. On the one hand, the work raises curiosity; what kinds of words – or even what – exist? On the other hand, insights arise by discovering how differently they react with one another when combined!
Tiina Palmu’s previous exhibition at Hippolyte also dealt with language as a mediator of meanings. In the video work included, she memorized and repeated a story in Russian – a language she does not speak. The uncontrollable nature of the transmission of meanings connects both works. Words do matter, especially when organized, but as they all repeat together, they lose their familiar role as producers of the desired information and become more like symbols or images. In Dramatis Personæ, words appear as raw material or potentiality, however, the work also reveals how media is limited by its connection to time and place. In the work, some words never connect with each other because of their contrived order, yet, because of language’s inherent character to evolve, their meanings and uses also change over time naturally.
Tiina Palmu is an artist based in Helsinki. She has a master’s degree in fine arts from the Academy of Fine Arts of the University of the Arts Helsinki. Her works mostly take their form as media installations, often based on a precise skill learned by Palmu, or an act that seems impossible. This act expands, becoming a symbol and a shadow of the meanings which surround it. Tiina Palmu’s works have been seen in solo and group exhibitions in Finland, Iceland, and Sweden. Previously, Hippolyte showed Palmu’s solo exhibition in 2017. Palmu’s works are included in the collection of the Päivi and Paavo Lipponen Foundation, held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Kiasma.
image: Tiina Palmu, 2021
Photographic Gallery Hippolyte
Open: Tue-Fri 12-17, Sat-Sun 12-16
Tue and Wed 8–9 June, open: 12–20
Closed 25–27 June 2021