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Major exhibition by Eija-Liisa Ahtila opens in Kiasma
Me/We, Okay, Gray, 1993. 3-kanavainen monitori-installaatio, puuhuonekalut esitysformaatti: luupatut digitaaliset videotiedostot (alkuperäisformaatti: S-16 mm neg)4:3/1:1.66, Stereo surround, kieli suomi, tekstitys englanniksi. 3 elokuvaa, kukin 1:30 min© 1993 Crystal Eye – Kristallisilmä Oy, Helsinki. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Central Art Archives / Pirje Mykkänen.

HELSINKI.- Eija-Liisa Ahtila (b. 1959 in Hämeenlinna, Finland) is an international contemporary artist. She has exhibited her work in major museums across the world, including Tate Modern in London, Jeu de Paume in Paris, Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, National Museum of Art in Osaka, and National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. The exhibition presents Ahtila’s work from the past ten years.

In her most recent works, Eija-Liisa Ahtila explores the relationship between man, animals and nature. The title of the exhibition is a reference to the idea that living creatures inhabit separate, yet simultaneous worlds. Our human experience is only one of many possibilities that exist. Ahtila has been inspired in her work by the thinking of the Baltic German biologist and philosopher Jakob von Uexküll (1864–1944).

Ahtila often uses words and literature as the starting point of her works. The works also contain references to the narrative devices of theatre, painting, film and television. The use of different modes of representation in the same work is well suited for Ahtila’s themes – the meeting of cultures, globalisation, and the shifting nature of human consciousness and identity.

Ahtila explores the techniques of the moving image in works, which often take the form of installations consisting of several video projections. The viewer’s place is in the centre of events. Eye contacts and gestures travelling from one screen to the next are carefully orchestrated and the viewing experience is always different depending on the viewer’s position.

The exhibition marks the Finnish premiere of Horizontal (2011), a cinematic portrait of a spruce tree, with a related series of drawings, and Companions (2011), a work about friendship between two boys. One of the boys was born in Africa, the other in China. Now both are Finnish. The Annunciation was completed in 2010-2011. All its actors except for two are non-professionals, most of them clients of the Helsinki Deaconess Institute’s women’s support services. Animal actors also play an important part in the piece: two donkeys, a trained raven and homing pigeons.

The exhibitions is also the first time Ahtila’s Where Is Where? (2008), donated to Kiasma by the Kiasma Foundation, is screened in Helsinki. The themes of the large installation are colonialism, the clash between cultures, and the right of interpretation. The exhibition is complemented by older works, including Fishermen (2007), The Hour of Prayer (2005), The House (2002) and Me/We, Okay, Gray (1993).

The works on show are presented in a 199-page illustrated book with texts by Daniel Birnbaum, Alison Butler, Leevi Haapala and Cary Wolfe. The book is published by Steidl.

The exhibition is produced in cooperation with Moderna Museet in Stockholm, where is was shown in early winter 2012. The exhibition has also been in last autumn at the Carré d’Art – Musée d’Art Contemporain de Nîmes in France. Ahtila’s previous extensive solo exhibition was in Kiasma in 2002.

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