A text for the Kiila -album, 2023.
A gallery space in a former textile factory warehouse on the east side of town. The building where the space is located will soon be turned into lofts advertised on a shiny banner outside of the building. The banner features a computer generated image of generic image bank people in leisurely activities on a clean paved square in sunshine. After the artist studios came the wine bars, the local-produce-restaurants and the artisan coffee shops, along with the developers. The prices rocketed and low income tenants moved on. The accents changed, the colours changed, now it was a former working class neighbourhood that had turned into the illustration generated in some creative studio for the property developer. The people resembled an idea of people found in an image bank catalogue. Don’t get me wrong – I like coffee and wine and good food, and the artists of course follow a cheap rent anywhere. But while I was sipping my wine, I felt a presence of simmering violence.
[In the image, sunny weather, five white and two brown people in jeans and t-shirts carrying take-away coffees, some talking on the phone on a paved promenade with a tall glass-front building next to them. They are all slim and the same height. A few planted trees on the side of the paved promenade.]
I’m looking at clay dumplings spread on a plastic sheet on the former factory floor. The artist who has made these dumplings is standing next to me and says how the dumplings were in an exhibition before this one. The artist had given the gallerists instructions on how to take care of the artwork. The dumplings had to be kept moist – not to let them become dry and crack up. The gallerists were too busy and they forgot to take care of the dumplings and so the dumplings dried up. They were left on display cracked up instead of being shiny and moist and cared for, like the artist had intended the dumplings to be. They became mistreated sad dumplings.
[Thirty round moist grey clay dumplings laid on a plastic sheet on a worn wooden floor.]
I’m sitting at a desk in an over-priced studio apartment wearing earmuffs against the construction noise coming from outside, where one of those computer-imagined neighbourhoods is being developed into reality. I’m looking at a black and white image on a rectangular 11" x 7" screen. In the image an artist is kneeling on a pavement, her back against the camera. The artist is scrubbing the pavement while a man walking a dog looks at what she is doing while he is walking by. I continue to read an interview with the artist where she recalls the difficulty of documenting what she was doing. “It’s one of the funny things about maintenance, it’s almost impossible to see” (she says). The artist talks about wanting to capture the repeated everyday tasks, such as the labour of dressing up children in the wintertime to go out and play. “They stay out for ten minutes, then start crying and want to go back in” (she says). The photographs became part of a travelling show where the artist performed maintenance tasks at the galleries, for example by scrubbing clean the main steps of the gallery. “Children joined in with me, even though I didn’t ask them to. Adults didn’t join me” (she says).
A museum space in the city centre, a building that has always been a national institution for art, in a city that is governed by those with an aspiration and ambition to turn the city into a computer generated illustration with glass-fronts and sanitised paved spaces with people carrying take-away coffees on their way to the many open-plan offices. An aspiration for a city that pretends to be a city but really is a 3D image; a place that feels like anywhere for it has been cleaned off a distinction. There is no space for spontaneous feeling, there are only premeditated moods. There is no smell, there is no colour, the only sounds are construction and traffic unless you walk into a privately guarded space for commerce that has curated playlists of feel-good folkish or anthemic white rock music. That atmosphere of simmering violence follows me in these spaces. I’m allowed in them if I buy things, but if I just stand there, say, next to a restaurant that sells chicken meat, and I stand there holding a piece of cardboard that says ‘Love a Chicken, Don’t Eat One’, a guard will soon come and escort me out.
[Dimmed lights, light jazz plays.]
And so I come to find refuge in the national institution for art and pay an entrance fee. While inside, I’m looking at photographs on the wall. A text under one of the images describes a crevice on a pavement. The text talks of those who are left on the other side of the crevice. In order to get on this side of the crevice, they are required to perfectly pronounce a secret password.
H Ö Y R Y J Y R Ä
Otherwise they are left to wave their permission papers on the other side, only allowed to step over the crevice so they can come and sweep off the mess and the dirt of those on the right side of the crevice when given a permission to do so. On the image the artist is sweeping off a dug up street corner that is partly fenced off by a red and yellow barrier. It is the artist who sweeps and not a person without official documents, for it is the artist that has a permission to get inside a national institution for art and make commentary on nationalism, on care, and on maintenance.
On a bright winter’s day in an over-heated research room at an archive that holds documents of leftist histories. I’m going through a brown cardboard folder containing newspaper clippings about a peace movement that for a moment seemed like distant past. But time is moving backwards while space is morphing into a generic illustration repeating anywhere so that histories get erased. The violence of memories being reset by the distortion of our surroundings into an unspecific space found in a digital image bank. We are like goldfish.
[A paved square, a tall building with a glass-front. No people.]
It appears to me that back then, some forty years ago, there was a variety of sources that contained different opinions and different events reported, compared to the monolithic now. In one of the archival clippings, I read about a demonstration that took place thirty-five years ago. A group of peace protestors entered a nuclear plant in southwest of the country. They entered the plant without a difficulty as they were dressed up as cleaners and the guards took them for cleaning women and paid no attention to them – women go under the radar. The women realised a performance on the premises by dancing in circles and sweeping off nuclear waste. Soon the guards took notice and the police was called. But the group was released after an hour or so, as their children were demonstrating with them.
[A black and white newspaper clipping with an image of a person dressed in a cloak carrying a scythe with two smaller people next to her, their heads covered with nylon pantyhose. In the background, we see a nuclear plant. The image captions reads in Swedish: Death herself with her daughters.]
In the dimming afternoon light I continue going through the folders that hold the peace campaigners’ ephemera. I open a large cardboard folder containing A3 size boards. Each of the boards has a black and white newspaper image attached, and a speech- or thought-bubble glued on top. On the images, suited men feature at parliamentary sittings and other meetings where men are talking and looking serious with other men. In one such image, a suited man leans his head against his palm surrounded by other suits while looking as if he is engaged in deep thinking. Over his head a bubble, a text in Finnish: I wonder if it was a mistake to take her to day-care, she seemed a bit sneezy in the morning…
[image: Anneli Pääkkönen]
And while looking at these artworks I feel that the simmering undercurrent of something bullying that has been following me is no longer present. The archive has swept it off by bringing back something from the past that has not been erased by a computer. I realise that that which is impossible to see – the maintenance – has materialised in me. The care I have received is an energy captured within me and I am its archive, a living breathing archive, a lingering reminder against thuggish monoliths.
[image: Anneli Pääkkönen]
Andrea Büttner, Ancestor Dumplings, 2011
Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Washing, June 13, 1974 (Maintenance Art Event XI), 1974
Hannele Rantanen, Ennen tärkeitä asioita, 2021
Itkijänaiset Olkiluodon ydinvoimalassa, 1987*
/ Weeping women at the Olkiluoto nuclear plant 1987
Anneli Pääkkönen, Kurahousut jäi salkkuun, 1986(?)*
Kansan arkisto (Helsinki), Naiset Rauhan Puolesta-kansiot /
People’s archive (Helsinki), Women for Peace-folders