With over 300 000 visitors in 2011 out of which 65% under 35 years old, Kiasma had to think of ways to further address these younger audiences of enthusiasts for contemporary art. Exploring the music world, and more in particular the world of songs with “Thank you for the Music” is a brilliant move in this respect as, independently from our age, but more especially when we are young, we all have a song we love, a song we link to a specific moment of our life. These little gems of our collective subconscious equally appeal to a strong visual world (mainly music videos) and connect to a real/virtual world of fans, viewers, listeners and music professionals (consumers?)… and the exhibition highlights all these aspects with brio.
Internationally acclaimed Candice Breitz is present with three gigantic photographs inspired by the fan communities of Britney
Spears, Marilyn Manson (amazing!) and Abba, where each posing character is like a royal (revering their music idol).
Dissecting fandom in an attempt to isolate the essence of it, Susanne Bürner video “50.000.000 can’t be wrong”is starting from a traveling on Elvis Presley’s fans: we never get to see the singer, wherever is name was appearing on banners (the generous “Elvis we love you!”) the author erased it, Elvis’ music vanished too – replaced by one of the artist’s friends music, only remain the fans and their attitude that abstracted from their initial context remind of political fanaticism.
David Blandy is a Robert Johnson’s fan (for real). Johnson is a mythical blues guitarist who, says the legend, found himself at crossroads where he sold his soul to the devil in order to better play the guitar . Blandy’s installation (a video http://vimeo.com/12643165 and a replica of Johnson’s home – a shed) illustrates the young artist’s pursuit of authenticity in playing music, a quest he patterns on Johnson’s by reviving parts of his musical life. Ultimately, Blandy reflects on why some musicians succeed in occupying the front scene and some other, so clearly devoted to their art – such as Robert Johnson, end up forgotten and in misery.
The question of the centrality of the music industry in our lives is evoked in the form of an allegory by Eduardo Balanza‘s work
that was crowdsourced in Finland (people were invited to give their LPs to the museum and Balanza spent two entire days selecting and mounting his installation – he usually would also listen to ALL of the LPs used in the installation but their overwhelming amount in this case made him opt for having supernumerary LPs used in DJ performances within the “happy Fridays” programme that is part of the exhibition.
The exhibition is also welcoming the launch of a LP by Pink Twins whose video “Defenestrator” is part of the temporary exhibition. Click the link below and you will understand why it also had to be part of the permanent collections of the Kiasma museum: it is “inception” before “Inception” (the movie) with its melting architecture into phantasmagoric bites of dreams and reality, imposing an intertwined visual and musical rhythm that leaves the viewer in ecstasy http://www.av-arkki.fi/en/works/defenestrator_en/
Another very powerful Finnish video artist dealing with the development and amplification of rhythms – both visually and acoustically, is Jenni Hiltunen. Three video’s of hers are part of the show and all are a must-see. Her latest, “Grind”, is full of humour (traditional Lappish costumes for fearless dancers only seen from the back) and femininity (slow motion on their/our fat moving to the rhythm of the music on the beat). “24/7 Shiva” is a very powerful storytelling exercise on the process of painting with visuals constructed on a two beats measure… http://www.jennihiltunen.com/24_7_shiva.html
The rhythm/sound of music calls for movement and some artists, such as Rauha Mäkilä and Terhi Ylimäinen, explore the movement of dancing on a certain type of music: Madonna, Lady Gaga and the like for Mäkilä and metal music, such as the one of Children of Bodom, for Ylimäinen. It is certainly interesting to see that although their sources of inspiration are so far away from one another, both these young women artists chose traditional figurative painting on canvas/wood to bring out their perception of movement. While Mäkilä juggles with strong, nearly flashy colours and acrylic textures, Ylimäinen resorts to a classical pictural construction based on two colours (black and white) or only one (black).
Finally, “thank you for the music” also tackles the issue of learning and composing a song with
Bojan Sarcevic‘s video “Cover versions” (2001) and Petri Ala-Maunus “A tribute to Petri Ala-Maunus” (2009). Sarcevic is putting a traditional Turkish maqam music group at odds with playing Nirvana’s Come as you are, Bob Marley’s Could you be loved, Marvin Gaye’s I heard it through the grapevine, and the Chemical Brothers’ Block Rockin’ Beats. They not only appropriate the music to their repertoire but create a sound of its own around these famous (Western) songs. Petri Ala-Maunus is utterly humorous: “Visual artist has never been my number one profession. I have always rather wanted to be a rock star. Unfortunately, I can’t sing, let alone play an instrument. I’m incompetent in music and too lazy to practice. But the sex, drugs and rock’n’roll lifestyle has always been very fascinating for me…”
Regrets about this invigorating exhibition? I have a few minor ones: firstly, the role of social media in sharing music and generating new ways of listening (hangouts, etc.) is hardly present in the exhibition (but in Balanza’s work that widely used crowdsourcing and social media to exist). Secondly, we have entered the era of the Guitar Hero’s and I believe that having one room or activity dedicated to this phenomenon would have brought even more young people to Kiasma – and thus to contemporary art. Finally, I would have loved a more articulate “soundscape” of Finland (Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kallleinen “complaint choirs” would have had a natural place here – again and again!)… Is this all because I am more than 35 years old?
Text: Ruxandra Balboa-Pöysti
To know more about the above listed artists:
The exhibition “Thank you for the music” until 17th June 2012 (www.kiasma.fi)
Candice Breitz: http://www.candicebreitz.net/
Susanne Bürner: http://www.art-report.com/en/artists/Susanne__Bürner/20060
David Blandy: http://www.davidblandy.co.uk/
Robert Johnson: http://youtu.be/Yd60nI4sa9A (his song “Crossroads”) Eric Clapton and Keith Richards popularized Robert Johnson him by paying tribute to his blues legacy.
Eduardo Balanza: http://www.eduardobalanza.com/index.php
Pink Twins: http://pinktwins.com/
Jenni Hiltunen: http://www.jennihiltunen.com/24_7_shiva.html
Rauha Mäkilä: http://www.rauhamakila.com/
Terhi Ylimäinen: http://www.terhiylimainen.com/
Bojan Sarcevic: http://www.bojansarcevic.net/
Petri Ala-Maunus: http://www.kuvataiteilijamatrikkeli.fi/fi/taiteilijat/2108