“I’ve written of your art that it thinks but in a way that trandescends words”, says Marja Sakari PhD, Senior Curator, when talking to the artist Maaria Wirkkala. The conversation flows from works, names, beginnings and starting points to the concept of artistry and meaning.
You have made installations tied to a particular place and time since the 1980s.
I construct moments and places. Time is a material. Temporality anchors on to something that exists and is pictured through it. The prerequisite of my work is becoming aware of the situation and using it as material.
What do objects and places mean to you?
Elements – a ladder and a chair follow me like a shadow. I don’t know why. With animals I’ve tried to make sense of numbers and events that are difficult to comprehend. Images of Renaissance art are a significant part of my childhood. As real images that I’ve experienced. As journeys or postcards sent to me by my parents. I have used postcards in my works. Places, I used to look for places. Now they come to me without looking for them.
A place has a memory and memory has a place. Light is extra. Not independent.
Names have a significant role in your works; Yhtä tyhjän kanssa (A Void of Me), So What, Maarian satama (Maria’s Harbour), Tabulava. What is your relationship to language as a partner of visuality?
Words. The space in between words. Voice. Curious translation. Double meaning. The name is part of the work.
You could also say that names create a narrative.
The Yhtä tyhjän kanssa (A Void of Me) exhibition was kind of a retrospective. You had minimized displays in almost empty rooms. What does emptiness mean to you?
In the beginning of my working with the exhibition a couple of lines from Eeva-Liisa Manner’s poem Chromatic Levels were important to me. To deal with emptiness and only emptiness. Later I understood emptiness as a loss, absence, even death.
How do different spaces affect the starting points of your works and artistic thinking?
At its simplest, the starting point may be the history of the location. It can also be the reverse of the location or something that remains unseen. I can also think that I’ll frame the hidden. I used to look for places that were in some sense outside – on the periphery of the artworld. I also used my own position as an outsider as a situation. Now I can’t do that anymore because the periphery has moved to the middle. There is no longer a margin.
My research continued last autumn in an exhibition Tabulava -pöytiä ja tuoli (Tabulava - tables and a chair) held in the Skanno furniture shop, in the city centre.
It turned out to be a perfect success in experiencing being an outsider. It was interesting to see the reactions of the “art crowd”. A furniture shop as a location pretty much defined it.
The difference between an industrial product and production was part of what I was examining.
It really was a case of TABLES AND A CHAIR. The question that I somewhat perplexed tried to answer was: ”Yes, they are quite pretty but how should we understand them?” Do you really have to UNDERSTAND a table? I think a table is a table. Is there something strange in bringing a TABLE into a furniture shop?
Is it not strange to bring a table or a furniture shop or a fitness centre to an art museum? Would the reaction have been different if I’d displayed the tables in a gallery? I had great fun discussing the TABULAVA project with René Block. The location was of prime importance also when I had my retrospective Yhtä tyhjän kanssa (A Void of Me) in the Museum of Finnish Architecture, a museum dedicated to the built environment.
Could you tell us something about the work to be displayed in the ARS exhibition?
One work leads to another. The TABULAVA project is followed by tabula rasa. I clear my table and start from where I stand. The question I’m thinking of is: A person can stand in the exact same place and think in two completely different ways. I’m in the middle of nowhere, or I’m at the heart of the world. Your relation to time and space is defined from this perspective. Another thing defining the future work is that the only certainty is uncertainty.