Monday, April 29, 2013


Vivi-Mari Carpelan: "A Measure of Normality",
handmade mixed media collage with photographs,
copyright 2013

I thought I wasn't going to do bigger pictures but there you go, I couldn't help myself. I was struggling a bit as I had to spend most of my time on the floor.

This collage started with a Chinese newspaper and the photos of myself. As I was checking out this newspaper, I realised how many cultural cross references there were. In one single paper, there were discussions about Windows 8, Google, Ipad and brands such as Toyota, Opel and Roche. I speak a little bit of Chinese but I don't understand the characters. Nonetheless, I found it quite easy to guess what the articles were about simply on the basis of all the Western names, but also the images and the typography. The editorial is suggested with the image of a scribbling pen, the dating site has bold characters and a cheesy Western couple in the picture. A meditating monk is clearly not real, but a movie character, as he's surrounded by a romanticised candle lit environment. An article about UFO's is accompanied by a photo of all sorts of paraphernalia to do with UFO's and the belief therein. An image of a couple sleeping on top of their luggage on the floor clearly speaks of delays in transport. Nostalgia for the past is expressed in traditional imagery and pictures of Asian food, and a love of modernity expressed in the extensive article on computers. All in all, though the details escape me (for instance, what caused the delay and whose football scores are we talking about here?), it's clear that globalisation and information technology is making it easier for people to understand each other. 

The downside is the homogenisation. While humans have always attempted to "fit in" and not upset the general concensus about normality, the extensive relocations that are taking place cause more pertinent conflicts in the individuals and in their new surroundings. To what degree should you try and blend in and to what degree should you preserve your cultural heritage? How do you strike a balance so that everyone has a reason to be content - personally, and collectively? Society may be more tolerant of difference than it used to be, but we are still far from living harmoniously side by side. On the pages of this newspaper, which incidentally is aimed at Asians living in Europe, I have scribbled my own little notes the way you do - phone numbers that are relevant to my existance but also reminders of little idiosyncracies such as the format in which the British and the Finnish  express time (9 pm being 21.00 hrs, for instance), and issues related to differences in the use of the phone. For instance, I was in for a shock when I found that calling a UK service number from my mobile phone was expensive - this isn't the case in Finland, were landlines are largely abandoned.

There are also peculiarly English expressions that I learn as I seek counterparts to expressions in my own language, and ones that I'm thinking of in order to use them in my projects. My dad used to always circle the programs he thought we should watch in the TV guide with a red marker - the marker being a typical association with newspapers. Is paper on its way out, well we'd all like to know that, of course! Many people are starting to hold onto the slow consumption of the written text on real paper, rather than suck up lots of short stories on the internet.

You want to express your individuality - well I'm assuming in this time and age most of us do in one way or another - and society certainly encourages people to do so up to a point. How much room for individuality is there really? As soon as a belief system runs counter to the rules and regulations created by the government, there is trouble... The paradoxical message is, you can be different, as long as you fit in. I have wanted to express this idea through the use of the photos of myself, that could be passport photographs if it wasn't for the unusual set up (I'm possibly naked, with a bowler hat on my head - and of course in Magritte's famous world, the bowler hat stands for conformity). I also point to the idea that most of us want to be noticed in some way or another, as well as express our individual selves... we silently question the idea, whether there is really room for us too in an over populated world that is much governed by the collective consciousness.

Then there is the grid, that much loved symbol within modern and contemporary art... To me, it merely suggests that we are really all stuck inside of the grid, or the matrix of society. Perhaps in the end it's not so much a matter of getting unstuck and "living off grid", as loosening the rigid grid so that we can all breathe with greater ease.

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