Friday, August 20, 2010

Antti Laitinen

Antti Laitinen’s work stems from performances which are documented through photographs, videos or objects – the records of these performances are therefore processed to create new works in entirely different contexts and thus incorporating several temporal stages. By way of documentation and the switch between media and presence – that quintessential ingredient of performance, the becoming of the work – becomes independent object.

Combining a search for identity and a poetry of the absurd, the artist pushes his limits (both physical and mental) in quest of the discovery of the wild Nordic landscape, often devoid of any human trace. Led by an undeniable humor and irony, Laitinen’s work immerses us into a world in which heroism meets simplicity through captivating images, recalling the relationship between humanity and nature.


Anonymous said...

21 June - 26 June 2005
Walk the Line

Finnish artist Antti Laitinen is undertook a 3 month residency at BALTIC, ending on 10 July 2005.

Laitinen’s work draws on environmental art, land art and performance art. By scanning a self portrait onto a map he creates a route to follow. He orienteers along the outline of his image, allowing for the limitations set by nature or construction, and later creates an image of a new environment using GPS (Global Positioning Systems) technology.

Laitinen developed this body of work by navigating the streets of Tyneside and the Northumbrian countryside. These new works featured in his Level 1 exhibition.

This residency was organised in partnership with FRAME (Finnish Fund for Art Exchange).

Anonymous said...

In the Manila Rope (1957), the novel by Veijo Meri, the grand old man of Finnish literary modernism, the protagonist smuggles a manila rope back home from the front. To make sure that he is not caught and that no one will steel the rope in his sleep, the man asks his mates on the front to coil the rope tightly around his body. The train journey back to Finland takes a long time, and inside the rope the man starts to swell up. His situation gets worse, but the other travellers do not understand his predicament, for the rope prevents him from speaking. Finally the others decide that the man is crazy. At last they arrive at his station. Staggering, the protagonist barely makes it to his front door, where the folks think he has been smitten by some horrible swelling disease. Finally his wife discovers the rope that has eaten into her husband’s flesh, and cuts it off with a knife.

Antti Laitinen’s work shares some of the absurd seriousness of this literary performance of body art. Just as in Meri’s story, so in Laitinen’s works incongruity between an individual’s performance and circumstances grow into a cultural metaphor. Many of Antti Laitinen’s work deal directly with fundamental issues of Finnish identity and cultural imagery, they are pictures of masculinity set in a context of nature and culture. In Bare Necessities (2002) Laitinen explores our romantic notions of nature in this urban age by living for four days in the Finnish national landscape, a forest beside a lake, without any food, water or clothes. The concept – escape from culture into the arms of wilderness – is one of the basic motifs of Finnish identity: the first Finnish novel, Aleksis Kivi’s The Seven Brothers, is a story of seven men who escape into the forest the demand of civilisation. Laitinen’s work is a documented lifestyle experiment, which explores the idea of return to nature in an age of ecological problematics. In the video, we see the artist in all sorts of seemingly comical situations: lighting a fire by rubbing two sticks together, picking up ants for food, fishing with a primitive spear, burrowing in the moss under a tree to sleep. On the other hand, the pristine, poignantly beautiful nature and the artist’s naked body documented in Bare Necessities add a note of innocence and purity to the work, an idea of primal origins we can never return to, but which nevertheless continue to exist on some level. In Laitinen’s treatment, the fundamental issues of avant-garde performance art about the body and authenticity seem to acquire a new freshness.

Untitled (2004) consists of three stones that Laitinen found after digging with a spade first for seven minutes, then for seven hours, and finally for seven days. THis absurd archeological project is umbued with the same ambiguous humour we find in Laitinen's works, the kind of humour that is created when solemnity is combined with vanity, when the small meets the big.

Yet Antti Laitinen is not just a humourist playing around with cultural meanings. His work attest to the presence and attitude of an author who is aware of the tradition of experimental performance art. The artist comments ironically on the canon of body art, such as the esteem provoked by heroic performances pushing the envelope of physical endurance or the transience of performance art. Laitinen's graduation thesis from the Academy of Fine Arts in Finland, Sweat Work and Running Wheel (2002), comprised a running wheel in which the artist ran until he began to sweat. At the end of the performance he pressed an image of his body on a sheet of photographic paper. The "paintings" made with sweat marks remained on the paper for a couple of weeks, until they disappeared. Sweat Work is also a photographic series that records the vanishing traces painted by sweat.