Other Pasts – turn on the archive, a project with Visual Communication Design MA students, Aalto University, autumn 2019.
During my stay as a designer-in-residence at the Aalto University in Helsinki, I took a group of students to different archives in Helsinki (or places that consider themselves to be an archive): Aalto (Taikki) archives, Museum of Impossible Forms, and People’s Archive (Kansan arkistot). Based on these visits, and on their own conception of what an archive is or can be, the students developed new work by appropriating archival work. Here appropriation is not a dirty word, but an action bringing lesser known histories into focus, distributing them to new audiences – something I am interested in my own work as well.
The outcome was an exhibition at the Otaniemi campus in December 2019, featuring in the publication LOCAL considering visual communication & locality, edited together with Arja Karhumaa.
Woman Lying On Her Stomach
“The photograph is a reenactment of a painting found in the People’s Archive by Uno ‘Severus’ Hölttä (1895—1966). Among his personal files, there are watercolors, drawings, a Supreme Court ruling, an old Red Guard membership card,* and some handwritten notes almost unreadable.
Documents left unexplained, shards of history that are inevitably lost in time, represent a collateral aspect of archiving. Instead of building coherent narratives of
the past, they leave doors open for speculation and mystery. Also the notion of performativity, as a way of reintroducing these fragments of lost narratives into a new context.
The pose, the objects, the fact that we can’t see her face or know who she is, create a general queerness to this dramatic scene. Reenacting it to the camera makes its oddness even more evident.” – João Emediato & Amelie Scharffetter (exhibition photo: Jenni Holma)
*The Finnish civil war, 1918.