Muse – Dialogues on Art and Love
Terike Haapoja in conversation with artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila, theatre director Pauliina Feodoroff, artist Newton Harrison, artist and activist Jenni Laiti, sculptor Zoltan Popovits, musician Samuli Putro and theatre director Kristian Smeds.
Sound design Mikko Virmajoki and Ville Hyvönen
Post production Ville Hyvönen
AV Proav Saarikko Oy
Transcription Laura Gustafsson
Subtitles Saga Vera / Maarit Tulkki
I’m trying to think what I want to say about this exhibition. Originally I had planned something completely different, something about biopolitics, but in one fell swoop, the pandemic made the connections between capitalism, racialization and the exploitation of the more-than-human realm hypervisible. As Pauliina Feodoroff said in one of our conversations last summer, maybe the moment when a tsunami hits is not the time to carve a monument bearing its name. Everybody sees the wave.
The pandemic is a silent tsunami, related to the slow catastrophes of antibiotic resistance and species extinction that carve their path quietly everywhere yet out of sight. The pandemic also amplifies the most quiet tsunami of all: the loneliness and isolation of living in industrial capitalism.
These biological, ecological and social problems are rooted in a culture of cutting off connections between people, other creatures and land in order to maximize productivity. If the object of neoliberalism is isolated by being literally caged, the subject of neoliberalism is isolated by a culture of individualism that convinces us that our thoughts and achievements are born from us alone, without any influx or connection to the web of life that supports us. For neoliberalism, the artist represents the ideal subject, an entrepreneur of its own life, a free genius surfing on the waves of the markets.
If this year has taught us something, it’s how much we need each other. We are interdependent materially and spiritually: without bodily, emotional and intellectual connections with others, we suffocate. Art is not born from thin air or from divine inspiration: everything that we live amongst and interact with speaks in our art practice. Here, it becomes urgent to cultivate relations that are loving. Love is not a noun but a verb: it means attentiveness, presence, making space, making time, giving priority. These features could describe political action as well: what love and politics have in common is this engagement with the world and its others.
Instead of making a solo show I wanted to give my time and attention to connections in order to strengthen and celebrate them. I invited artists who have been important to my growth as a person and who have inspired my creative work to think together with me. The video installations and audio recordings present conversations that explore the relationship of art with love, eternity, the more-than-human world and activism. They are maybe not so much art works than they are act works, recordings of acts of attentiveness and sharing. The exhibition is a love letter to thinking and growing together.
In New York, October 22, 2020
Thank you: Laura Gustafsson, Satu Herrala, Eva Neklyaeva, Heather Davis, Eva Hibay, Mia Kivinen, Maija Blåfield, Liisa Lounila, Anita Seppä, Bockholm, Helsinki Art Museum.