Lightning. It strikes. In a desert and in the dark. It brings light, that moment, that amazing moment. Light, power, tension and the momentariness of time – its simultaneous ephemerality and perfection.
Nature and the experience of nature. A state and a situation, its transitions and repetitions – a representation of this experience in a white cube. The production of closeness, which tears and strips away, brings things close and pulls them far away. Familiar, alien, beautiful and frightening: a video work titled 7BPM.
Liisa Lounila’s Into the Wilderness exhibition goes far away and comes back close. It brings with it from the desolate land, into the middle of urban everyday life, the key question about what and how we experience our environment, on this occasion, the purpose being emphatically in relation to the spectacles and extreme phenomena in nature.
This is an experience that is both conveyed and evades us with the aid of and through images.
Images of nature, which shape our conception of what nature is, and also of what it should be. We end up in a continuous interaction with what is and how that what is is presented. In Liisa Lounila’s case, form and content are combined in video works, a sound work, an installation, and in sculptures. We talk about representation, about the making and breaking of reality.
In the background – as the title of the exhibition implies – that century-old philosophical, lifepolitics movement from the USA, transcendentalism, which tried to find a way back to wild, original nature, to its power and light. This is about a mythical return to nature, which, in each age, has taken on modes of manifestation and modes of being typical of its own time. Nowadays, it is called experience tourism, finding yourself, and battling to survive on nature’s own terms. One element is preserved and remains: the crucial contradiction between assumptions and experience.
“7BPM is a thunderstorm in Arizona photographed from a hotel courtyard. The hotel was on the outskirts of the small town of Chinle, next to the Canyon de Chelly Indian reservation, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by hundreds of kilometres of badlands, uninhabitable dusty ground, which has been so generously given to the Navajos to live on.” “The thunderstorm is stuck in the canyon, which makes the lightning strike regularly in almost exactly the same place. The storm doesn’t move, intensify or abate, but goes on apparently endlessly in an unnaturally stable way, and nothing in the picture or on the soundtrack reacts in any way to the lighting in the background; the frogs and crickets make their music without merging into its monotonous rhythm, and nor does the grass lit up by the lights of the hotel parking lot move at all in the totally still air. There is no catharsis.
“The title of the work comes from this pulse rate, 7 beats per minute. The situation in no way corresponded to thunderstorms I had seen before, which, sometimes more impressively, sometimes less, but nevertheless in some way always induced a feeling of danger, and ultimately a sort of satisfaction. This one simply felt fake. And it looked so perfectly staged, in the same way as Niagara did when backlit, only becoming real when the lights were turned off at night. So, I had to photograph it. This unnatural natural phenomenon.” Staged, fake nature, which is simultaneously fact and fiction. Too true and imperfectly false. Real and distanciated by nature photography, and brought back into a viewing situation in the gallery space. Motion beyond time and travel – bringing close, being close, affecting, compelling. And that lighting flash, it strikes. Seven times a minute. And when it strikes, you think you understand what is happening, but you stay within the confines of uncertainty. You are in an inbetween state. You assume that you understand, and you want to understand, but you still don’t know what has hit you, what is affecting you.
Quotations from conversation between Liisa Lounila and Mika Hannula.
Lounila made her debut at the Venice Biennale in 2003. Already at this time the young artist
representing Finland made an impression with her distinct nostalgic aesthetic. Lounila is a Helsinki based artist, who has spent and worked several periods of time in New York. Lounila has >participated in group exhibitions all over the world and her videos have been screened at numerous film festivals since the late 90’s. She has held solo shows at for example Wilkinson Gallery in London and Gallery of Photography in Dublin. Into the Wilderness is Lounila’s third solo exhibition at the gallery (Just Can´t Get Enough of Last Night 2011, Been Trying to Meet You 2009).
The exhibition has been supported by: the Alfred Kordelin Foundation, Finnish Cultural >Foundation, Taike and Avek.
Special thanks to AV-Arkki, Tuomo Kuusi, Sebastian Tesch, Michael Burke, Mikko Ojanen, Tanja Lahti, Tuomas Klaavo, Merja Pesola and Timo Tervoja.
Welcome to an artist talk with Liisa Lounila at Helsinki Contemporary Sunday 27th April 2014 at