The shadow of the Zeppelin over Kiasma
The two-year-old co-operative ROR, or Revolutions on Request, is a working community of seven artists from Helsinki. In its production the group comments on present-day phenomena by balancing on the boundaries between applied art, handicraft and art, and searches for an answer to the question, "Does technical development automatically mean a better life?" Jiri Geller, Klaus Nyqvist, Panu Puolakka and Karoliina Taipale talk about ROR’s preparation for the opening of the Utopia exhibition in Kiasma in February.
ROR-production began its adventure between free and applied art. When the City of Culture Foundation was looking for projects for the City of Culture in year 2000, operations took shape: the group exhibited together for the first time in the TERROR 2000 exhibition at the Into Gallery. Originally 16 members strong, the group has now contracted to less than half this size, but exhibitions also feature the work of guest artists.
"The Terror exhibition, like the coming Kiasma exhibition, was built around a theme approved by the group members. Everyone works independently. Boundaries of course are defined anew in the work process. Works by guest artists are used to complete the final entity."
The Utopia exhibition is made up of individual works, but by the use of exhibition architecture designed by the group members themselves they are integrated into one complete artwork.
"We needed some element to organise the asymmetrical space of Kiasma’s Fifth Floor. So we developed a three-dimensional, standardised pixel which acts both as the structure of individual works and as an aid to perceiving the space. For instance the exhibition contains cubic modules covered with pixel-design wrapping paper/wallpaper, which each represent some kind of utopian living room."
ROR did not want to create a ready-made utopian model for the exhibition, but to picture a journey.
"Utopia is the death and rebirth of the model. It is strongly linked to rotation, the circulation of everything. Utopia is a circle which contains everything positive and negative, it has its own place in the circuit."
Specific motifs are repeated in ROR’s productions, only the methods of realising them change.
"One example of a repeated theme is the Zeppelin. It crops up repeatedly in our conversations as some sort of magical form of transport, which in its own time made the impossible come true, a Utopia moving on the buoyant force of a highly inflammable gas."
The same description also fits ROR. The group tests the boundaries of its activity as if it was playing leaping games. Its place in the rotation is approved:
"ROR will explode or become an institution."
Now and then coincidences make them stop. When a vision of a ROR 2000 cockpit was published in a leaflet that came out a couple of years ago, the cockpit of Concorde was used for the picture. The group received news of the Concorde accident when they were taking part in the Utopia seminar at the Villa Mairea. When they were planning a trip to New York, the explosion of the Hindenburg in United States airspace was in their minds.
"Playing with forcibly explosive matters also serves as a safety valve for fear."
In its production ROR emphasises the significance of error. The graphic expression of the TERROR 2000 exhibition was found partly by chance when the computer’s internal logic brought to the screen a different version of the refined solution. In art too, in the group’s opinion, excessive refinement can stifle the freshness.
"Screwing art to death is a good way to kill it."
In between exhibitions ROR concentrates on other projects. These have included a magazine and a planned TV programme Revolution studio.
"We want to do something different in between exhibitions. Exhibitions involve a lot of responsibility, timetables, budgets….. Projects need to be lighter; the airship flies to new adventures."
ROR production exhibition Terror 2.1 Utopia on Kiasma’s Fifth floor, 10 February to 22 April 2001.