Tuesday, July 31, 2012

F for Fake



V niin kuin väärennös / F för förfalskning. FR/IR/DE © 1973 SACI / Les Films de l'Astrophore / Janus Film und Fernsehen. P: François Reichenbach. D+SC: Orson Welles. DP: Gary Graver, Christian Odasso. M: Michel Legrand. ED: Marie-Sophie Dubus, Dominique Engerer.
    Featuring: Orson Welles, Oja Kodar, Elmyr de Hory, Clifford Irving, Lawrence Harvey, Howard Hughes, Nina van Pallandt, Joseph Cotten, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Richard Wilson, Paul Stewart, François Reichenbach, Gary Graver. Loc: Rome, Ibiza, Paris, Los Angeles, Chartres, Orvilliers, Houdan.
    Helsinki premiere: 18.2.1976 Diana, released by ABC-Kinot – VET 84518 – K12 – 2445 m / 88 min.
    A vintage ABC-Kinot print with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Aito Mäkinen / Maya Vanni viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (I Love You, I Film You), 31 July 2012.

Revisited the last major feature film directed by Orson Welles. F for Fake is a high point in his satirical essay format that he mastered already in the 1950s (A Portrait of Gina), ahead of his time. The rapid, irreverent montage of the movie, original in its time, has since the 1980s become a mainstream device in television.

The theme of the film - fakes, fraud, illusions - is much more topical today than when the film was made. The crooked play of Elmyr de Hory and Clifford Irving is a small time version of the giant fraud well-known in today's financial scene.

This is a film full of paradoxes. Like all great forgers, Elmyr de Hory never makes a copy of a painting but creates new paintings copying precisely the style of a famous artist in a certain period. Elmyr also claims that he has never forged a signature. "I have never broken a law". "The fakes are as good as the real ones". We see Elmyr creating fake paintings by Matisse etc. and then throwing them into the fire. In some points of his career his zeal became a curse: he created dozens of Modiglianis while Modigliani was an artist famous for the limited number of his works.

In one of the funniest scenes of the movie Elmyr fakes a portrait of Michelangelo and signs it as Orson Welles. In another scene Welles draws a picture of Howard Hughes and signs it as Elmyr de Hory.

This satirical study casts an irreverent light into the phenomena of art markets, art experts, and the museum circuit.

The Picasso phenomenon is among the themes. Never before had there been artist that in one movement of the hand that took maybe only ten seconds created a line that turned into gold. According to Elmyr Picasso himself was not always able to distinguish between an authentic Picasso and a fake ("I can paint false Picassos as well as anybody" Picasso reportedly said).

The film digresses into Clifford Irving's fake autobiography of Howard Hughes, and Orson Welles's personal connection with the Howard Hughes story. An alternative project of his to Citizen Kane was a film inspired by the life of Howard Hughes, and uncannily, Citizen Kane came to predict aspects of the later phase of Howard Hughes (such as his mysterious isolation).

The film is a provocation to profound skepticism and healthy distrust in everything, including itself. Orson Welles later commented that "everything in that film was fake". But even that is not true. The film ridicules the cult of the signature and the genius but it celebrates true art that may be completely anonymous, like the cathedral of Chartres. It also celebrates the naked truth of the human form as incorporated in the figure of Oja Kodar.

Visual quality: compilation quality, from 16 mm, stock footage, dupes, and original 35 mm footage. The vintage print is complete and the colour is ok for a print that is over 35 years old.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Chris Marker 1921-2012

Le Monde, 30 July 2012
http://www.lemonde.fr/culture/article/2012/07/30/mort-du-realisateur-chris-marker_1740096_3246.html
Télérama, 30 July 2012
http://www.telerama.fr/cinema/le-realisateur-chris-marker-est-mort,84837.php
The Hollywood Reporter, 30 July 2012
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/french-filmmaker-chris-marker-dies-355809
Variety, 30 July 2012
http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118057206
Wikipedia (in French)
http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Marker

The Dark Knight Rises

Yön ritarin paluu / The Dark Knight Rises [Swedish title]. US/GB © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures Funding, LLC. P: Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven, Emma Thomas. D: Christopher Nolan. SC: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan - story: Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer - Batman characters: Bob Kane. DP: Wally Pfister. Camera dept: huge. PD: Nathan Crowley, Kevin Kavanaugh. Sup. AD: James Hambidge, Naaman Marshall. Set dec: Paki Smith. Art dept: huge. Cost: Lindy Hemming. Cost dept: big. Makeup: Luisa Abel. Hair: Janice Alexander. SFX sup: Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, team: big. VFX team: huge. VFX companies: Double Negative, etc. Stunt team: huge. M: Hans Zimmer. S: Richard King. ED: Lee Zimmer. Casting: John Papsidera, Toby Whale. C: Christian Bale (Bruce Wayne), Gary Oldman (Commisioner James Gordon), Tom Hardy (Bane), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Robin John Blake), Anne Hathaway (Selina Kyle), Marion Cotillard (Miranda Tate), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox), Michael Caine (Alfred), Matthew Modine (Deputy Commissioner Peter Foley), Alon Aboutboul (Dr. Leonid Pavel), Ben Mendelsohn (John Daggett), Burn Gorman (Stryver), Liam Neeson (Ra's Al Ghul), Cillian Murphy (Dr. Jonathan Crane). Loc: New York City, Los Angeles, London, Nottingham, Glasgow, Newark, Pittsburgh, Jodhpur. 164 min. Relased in Finland by FS Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Tommi Lupunen / Emilia Nilsson. 2K DCP viewed at Tennispalatsi 1, Helsinki, 30 July 2012.

Technical specs from the IMDb: Camera: IMAX MSM 9802, Hasselblad Lenses, Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL2, Panavision C- and E-Series Lenses, Panavision Panaflex System 65 Studio, Panavision System 65 Lenses. - Laboratory: Consolidated Film Industries (CFI), Hollywood (CA), USA (IMAX prints), Technicolor, Hollywood (CA), USA (also prints). - Film negative format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision3 250D 5207, Vision3 500T 5219), 65 mm (also horizontal) (Kodak Vision3 250D 5207, Vision3 500T 5219). - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (master format) (some scenes), IMAX (some scenes), Panavision Super 70 (some scenes), Panavision (anamorphic). - Release format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision 2383), 70 mm (horizontal) (IMAX DMR blow-up) (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema. - Aspect ratio: 1.44:1 (some scenes: IMAX version), 2.35:1.

Official synopsis: "Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ “The Dark Knight Rises” is the epic conclusion to filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy."

"It has been eight years since Batman vanished into the night, turning, in that instant, from hero to fugitive. Assuming the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Dark Knight sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon both hoped was the greater good. For a time the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act."

"But everything will change with the arrival of a cunning cat burglar with a mysterious agenda. Far more dangerous, however, is the emergence of Bane, a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham drive Bruce out of his self-imposed exile. But even if he dons the cape and cowl again, Batman may be no match for Bane." (Official synopsis)

The previews in the screening included Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, Ted, the Total Recall remake, and The Bourne Legacy. Little danger of highbrow culture here.

Although the screening lasted three hours I never glanced at my watch.

Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy is the fourth cycle of major film adaptations of Bob Kane's characters, and as a whole it's the strongest of them all. Before Nolan's films my favourite had been Tim Burton's Batman Returns, but I'd need to see it again.

The cycle, especially this finale, is incredibly dark and pessimistic for mainstream entertainment. The screenwriters may have been influenced by the James Bond super adventures (the plane hijack pre-credit sequence, wonder gadgets including weapons and vehicles, the underground lairs, the supervillain's mad master plan, the supervillain's female accomplice switching to the hero's side, the race to the rescue with the atom bomb, the outlandish and overblown quality of the fantasy) but the overwhelmingly sinister doomsday mood is something completely different.

Batman has been so badly injured that Bane seems to be an absolutely superior foe, especially when Selina Kyle cheats Batman twice: first by stealing his fingerprints with the help of which his financial empire is crushed, and secondly by luring him to Bane's underground empire where his backbone is literally broken. At the same time Alfred has left.

The Dark Knight Rises is a vehicle for fantasies of power and destruction. It is full of topical references: epic fraud in the stock exchange, identity theft in the cyberworld, the impossibility of a clean slate in the age of the internet, torture by liberal governments, large scale terrorism, and nuclear powerplants recycled as nuclear bombs.

Batman has become a depressive figure. Selina Kyle is first on Bane's side but turns to Batman's side and it is she who kills Bane and saves Batman. But Miranda Tate, Batman's original love interest, turns out to be the real master criminal, Bane's boss. The atmosphere of distrust is so pervasive that it makes the "romantic" relationships seem hollow. The most sincere characters are Alfred and Blake. Even Gordon has compromised himself in maintaining the myth about Harvey Dent. Blake's disappointment is so profound that he throws his badge to the sea and takes steps to become Batman's successor as Robin. The story's logical tragic ending would have been that Batman sacrifices his life with the detonation of the neutron bomb that he takes away from Gotham City, but there is a bonus happy ending.

Fatherlessness is a basic theme: for Batman, for whom Gordon was a father figure, and for Blake, for whom Batman is a father figure. In a more confused way it is a theme also for Miranda and Bane.

The film is well cast. Christopher Nolan is a good director of actors, and they make up an excellent ensemble. The art and costume departments are impressive.

Memorable quotes: "There are no fresh starts in today's world" (Selina Kyle's dilemma). "The mask is not to protect you but the people close to you". "There's more to you than that" (Batman to Catwoman). "Innocent is a strong word around Gotham".

There is a lot of implied violence in the movie but no blood or splatter because of the PG-13 rating. There is an atmosphere of doom and terror but the gory, visceral reality of violence is omitted.

There are many fight sequences, but because of the rapid cutting and the PG-13 mandate they are usually impressionistic. It is unclear what is exactly going on and impossible to tell whether the actors do any of their own stunts.

Christopher Nolan is a champion of photochemical film, and The Dark Knight Rises has been shot on IMAX horizontal 65 mm and 35 mm film. I look forward to seeing it in IMAX. In this 2K DCP presentation the visual quality is less than brilliant. It is a letdown in comparison with the superb visual quality of Inception. But also in The Dark Knight I was annoyed by the transitional quality of the digital intermediate.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Yksityisalueella / On Private Ground

FI © 2012 Eero Tammi. P+D+SC+ED+narrator: Eero Tammi. Co-P: ELO Helsinki Film School. DP: Timo Peltonen. S: Jarkko Kela. 29 min. Dvd with English subtitles by Mikko Lyytikäinen, viewed at the summer cottage in Punkaharju, 26 July 2012.

Rough notes: Contemporary footage: Maunu Kurkvaara shooting in 35 mm today - Eero Tammi examines his images at the computer screen while smoking away at a cigarette - Kurkvaara had not shot in 20 years - Maunu Kurkvaara at home on his island - born in Viipuri in 1926 - in the 1940s an artist - in the 1950s an independent film-maker who directed, shot, edited, wrote, produced, did the laboratory work, even acted occasionally - the Finnish New Wave - excerpts from Kurkvaara's movies - Kaupunki / The City (1957) - Café Ekberg, Kurkvaara with Cecil Hagelstam - the paints of the oil painter - Kurkvaara's studio, abstractions, nudes, an early self-portrait (1947), Nuoruus / Youth (1952) - applying at the Academy of Fine Arts - Ei enää eilispäivää (1956) - the visual mentality from painting to the cinema - Rakas... / Darling (1962) - an urban level of thinking - visual composition and rhythm - colour cinematography in Meren juhlat / Feast by the Sea (1965) - I am an urban man - the urban milieu, the changing society - the sea adds another dimension, the contrast to the city, the eternity, the freedom to leave - departure is a recurrent theme in my movies - Tänään olet täällä / Today You Are Here (1966) - the problem of the control society, the Big Brother mentality - Meren juhlat / Feast by the Sea: the painter, cutting one's hand with a knife - modernistic music - stains of blood - the artist aims at the impossible - nothing is ever enough - you never achieve what you want - Menestyksen maku / A Taste of Success (1983) - let's use the natural elements - Yksityisalue / Private Territory (1962) - the funeral of the architect planned - many former colleagues of mine have committed suicide - modernistic images of a woman appearing and disappearing - it took me 50 years to handle my themes, and I never found solutions - after all I'm an optimism, yet I see the limitations of our options - your background is extremely important - the small ivory masterpiece found at a second hand store: there is something bigger than the cinema - Eero Tammi: life is an instrument of art - Maunu Kurkvaara facing the sea on his island.

AA: Eero Tammi is the number one connoisseur of Maunu Kurkvaara, one of the first masters of the Finnish New Wave. Kurkvaara hardly ever appears in public, which makes this movie a priceless record of the artist who is still in great form although he has retired from the movie scene almost 30 years ago. The images and sounds of this movie confirm Kurkvaara's originality as an artist of urban alienation and modernity.

Suomalaiset ja raha: rakkaustarina / [The Finns and Money: A Love Story]

FI 2011. Suomen Pankki / Bank of Finland 200 Years. PC: Nosferatu. P: Mark Lwoff. D+SC: Peter von Bagh. ED+S+kuvankäsittely: Petteri Evilampi. DP: Arto Kaivanto. Narrators: Erja Manto, Eero Saarinen, Peter von Bagh. 30 min Dvd viewed at the summer cottage, Punkaharju, 26 July 2012.

Works from the Bank of Finland art collections: Unto Ahola: Ruska, Eva Anttila: Työ ja elämä, Eva Anttila: Kaupunki, Göran Augustson: Metsäsinfonia, Antti Favén: Elonleikkuu, Antti Favén: Risto Ryti, Akseli Gallén-Kallela: Aino-triptyykki, Akseli Gallén-Kallela: Lumipukuiset hiihtäjät, Olli Joki: Kaksi vanhusta, Dora Jung: Portti Saimalle, Terttu Jurvalainen: Juhlat, Aimo Kanerva: Kuuset, K. Kukk: Kyösti Kallio, Unto Koistinen: Klaus Waris, Markkku Kolehmainen: Matti Vanhala, Oscar Kleineh: Merimaisema, Tapani Raittila: Mauno Koivisto, Juho Rissanen: Elonkorjuu, tukinuitto ja silakkamarkkinat, Eliel Saarinen: Setelityttö, Santeri Salokivi: Hiekkarannalla, Eeva Saurio: Joensuun kaupunki, Lennart Segerstråle: Finlandia-freskot, Birger Salin: Sakari Tuomioja, Kain Tapper: Iso harmaa - puureliefi, Marjatta Tapiola: Sirkka Hämäläinen, Verner Thomé: Clas Herman von Collan, Voitto Vikanen: Suomen pankki, Björn Weckström: Hydraulinen hevonen

Movie excerpts: Rovaniemen markkinoilla, Onni pyörii, Suomisen perhe (speculation), Lapatossu (the symbol of evading work), Silmät hämärässä, Pekka ja Pätkä, Yhden miehen sota, Uuno Turhapuro movies, Pahat pojat, Hamlet liikemaailmassa, Aho & Soldan documentary films.

Rough notes: the green gold: the forest and paper industry - the history of the bank notes, designers included Eliel Saarinen, Tapio Wirkkala, and Erik Bruun - writers quoted include Paavo Haavikko, Pentti Haanpää, Maria Jotuni - other testimonies quoted include Edvard Gylling, Väinö Tanner, Risto Ryti, Anders Chydenius, Sylvi Kekkonen, Ernst Emil Schybergson - the history of Finland through the Bank of Finland - Finnish currency preceded the Finnish independence - the development of Finnish industry - periods of inflation, speculation, depression and recovery - 1938: the last year of peace, the brief happiness - Snellman's statue unveiled in front of the Bank of Finland - Juho Rissanen: Rahan hyväätekevä vaikutus [The Blessing of Money], Rahan kirous [The Curse of Money] - wartime bank offices in Eastern Karelia - a montage of portraits of bank directors - rationing during the war, clipping bank notes, the motif of tearing bank notes: "money is like trash", "money from heaven" - the new sets of bank notes - Tapio Wirkkala: Paasikivi, Ståhlberg, Snellman - old money thrown into the incinerator - the piggy bank: does dad drink the money from the child's piggy bank? - the mechanization of agriculture, urbanization, the most brutal change of economic structure - the liberalization of beer: Uuno Turhapuro as an image of what happened to the Finnish people - the new bank notes designed by Erik Bruun: Paavo Nurmi, Väinö Linna, Alvar Aalto, Jean Sibelius, Elias Lönnrot, Anders Chydenius - Olavi Virta schlagers - videos, virtual performances: flash montage - economy does not become more comprehensible - Irwin Goodman: "Raha ratkaisee" - the casino economy of the 1980s - securities vanished, including banks - the golden calf - the whole scope of industries.

AA: Another great, sharp, witty montage film by Peter von Bagh, the history of Finland through its money until the age of the euro. The moving images emphasize the transitory, perishable nature of money. This movie belongs together with Bagh's great series Oi kallis Suomenmaa 1-8 and Sininen laulu 1-12, to a surprising amount because it is also a showcase of the art treasures owned by the Bank of Finland. A work of lasting value.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Giuseppe Verdi: Aida (Savonlinna Opera Festival)

IT 1871. An opera in four acts.
Libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni after Camille Du Locle´s French text based on the Scénario anonyme attribué à Auguste Mariette (1870).
First performed in Cairo, Khedivial Opera House, 24 December 1871.

Conductor: Elio Boncompagni
Stage director: András Mikó
Revised production: Jere Erkkilä
Stage and costume designer: Seppo Nurmimaa
Choreographer: Heikki Värtsi
Répétiteur: Ulrika Hallberg
Lighting designer: Kimmo Ruskela
Chorus master: Matti Hyökki
Make-up and hair: Jani Kylmälä

King of Egypt, bass: Timo Riihonen
Amneris, his daughter, mezzo-soprano: Anna Smirnova
Aida, Amneris´s Ethiopian slave, soprano: Csilla Boross
Radamès, Captain of the Egyptian Guard, tenor: Walter Fraccaro
Ramfis, High Priest, bass: Mika Kares
Amonasro, King of Ethiopia, Aida´s father, baritone: Vladimir Moroz
A messenger, tenor: Petri Bäckström 
Priestess, soprano: Marjukka Tepponen

Dancers: Andrea Bena, Linda Haakana, Petia Ilieva, Antti Keinänen, Nikolas Koskivirta, Virve Olsson, Aki Pakarinen, Emmi Pennanen, Evaldas Bielinis, Milla Eloranta, Tiia Huuskonen, Elena Ilyina, Emilia Karmitsa, Kare Länsivuori, Jarkko Niininen, Susanna Sell, Aapo Siikala, Teemu Tainio, Emre Tanis, Marjaterttu Willman.

Savonlinna Opera Festival Orchestra
Savonlinna Opera Festival Choir

E-surtitles in Finnish and English. Visited in Savonlinna, 25 July 2012.

Parallel listening during the week: Giuseppe Verdi: Aida. Decca 2 cd, 2011. Cat: 417439. A recording from 1986 from the production of Teatro alla Scala, recorded at Studio Albanella, Milano, conducted by Lorin Maazel, with Maria Chiara as Aida and Luciano Pavarotti as Radamès. Putting the cd in the computer there is access to the libretto and bonus audio material.

Festival website: "This Verdi masterpiece of mammoth proportions, complete with vast crowd scenes, dancers and marching soldiers, is matched to perfection in Olavinlinna Castle in the production directed by András Mikó and visualised by Seppo Nurmimaa. The stirring effects of this opera set in ancient Egypt do not, however, detract from the tragic triangle drama acted out on the stage."

"The military fortunes of the Egyptians and the Ethiopians wax and wane, but the ultimate victor is the masterly music of Giuseppe Verdi captured as nowhere else in the splendid acoustics of Olavinlinna Castle. Aida, the Savonlinna Opera Festival’s greatest spectacle, will be taking the Castle by storm again in summer 2012." (Festival website)

Kimmo Korhonen in the introduction to the libretto: "Aida is one of the late Verdi operas. The famous 'galley-slave' years of the 1840s, when Verdi was under permanent pressure to keep producing operas, were a thing of the past. As his reputation grew, he was gradually able to dictate his terms, to take his time and to pay more attention to detail and dramatic structure. By the time Aida was premiered, nearly five years had elapsed since his previous opera, Don Carlos, and he was to compose only two more masterpieces, Otello (1887) and Falstaff (1893)."

"The fact that the commission came from Cairo well justified the choice of an Egyptian topic. This subject was developed by the distinguished Egyptologist August Mariette and drafted in prose by one of the two Don Carlos librettists, Camille du Locle. The libretto proper was, however, the work of Antonio Ghislanzoni, using du Locle's draft as a basis. True to form, Verdi strongly intervened in the editing of the text and bombarded Ghislanzoni with proposals for alterations."

"An opera of mighty effects, Aida is a Verdi version of a French grand opera. Both the exotic choice of subject and the massive victory scene in the second act, complete with ballet, are a seamless continuation of the grand opera tradition. Yet basically Aida is a psychologically charged triangle drama between two women and one man. The lovers are, in true Verdi style, a soprano (Aida) and a tenor (Radamès, Captain of the Egyptian Guard), with a mezzo-soprano (Amneris) trying to force her way between them. Also influencing the course of events are two mighty men, the Chief Priest Ramfis (bass) and Aida's father, the captured King of the Ethiopians, Amonasro."

"Of all the characters, Ramfis is really the only one who is singularly odious. The most subtle of all is possibly Amneris, who clearly emerges as more interesting than the conventional 'evil' mezzo-soprano and becomes increasingly human as the story unfolds; at one stage Verdi even thought of naming the opera after her. Even Amonasro, who seems at first sight to be engaged in an act of treachery, is revealed at the dramatic climax in act three as being fired by patriotism."

"The setting for the action, ancient Egypt, was an opportunity for Verdi to use exotic elements. Examples are the priests and priestesses, the unusual scales heard from time to time, the magnificent evocation of the moonlit Nile at the beginning of act three, and the special Aida trumpets in the victory scene. Verdi does not, however, overdo the exoticism, since the demands of the drama acted out by his characters are always uppermost. The result is a focused, almost classical opera."

"Verdi shows himself, in Aida, to be a complete master of his tools. He was thus all the more vexed by those who saw in it the influence of Wagner. One reason for such claims was the use of personal motifs: both Aida and Amneris have themes of their own. Any talk of Wagnerian influence is, however, misleading, since the world of the opera is that of Verdi and Verdi alone." (Kimmo Korhonen).

AA: Aida is yet another great success production in the history of the Savonlinna Opera Festival and a centerpiece of the centenary jubilation. The rugged force of the Olavinlinna castle is again in use. Egyptian guards were welcoming us as we entered the castle from the bridge. The costume design was splendid and elegant. The performance was powerful: exhilarating in the chorus scenes, moving in the stories of unfulfilled loves and devastating in the tragic outcome. The dynamic balance of the musical presentation functioned very well. I saw Aida for the first time in a live performance but was familiar with the music. The legendary chorus scenes can be appreciated in their full force only in a live presentation, and the lyrical arias also get a special impact in this context. The singers are very good, and especially Csilla Boross as Aida impresses with her tender interpretation. According to Kimmo Korhonen (quoted above) Verdi was annoyed by the commentators who noticed an influence of Wagner. No need to, because the musical world is totally Verdian. Having seen The Flying Dutchman two days ago it was impossible to ignore the Liebestod ending of Aida. In The Flying Dutchman Senta follows the ghostly Dutchman to the beyond, and in Aida the Princess of Ethiopia joins her beloved Radamès in death row in his crypt.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Richard Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer / The Flying Dutchman (Savonlinna Opera Festival)

DE 1843. Romantische Oper in three acts.
Libretto by Richard Wagner, after Heinrich Heine´s Aus den Memoiren des Herrn von Schnabelewopski Book 1, Chapters VI and VII (1834).
First performed in Dresden, Königlich Sächsisches Hoftheater, 2 January, 1843.

Conductor: Philippe Auguin
Stage director:  Ilkka Bäckman
Stage design and costumes:  Juhani Pirskanen
Lighting designer: Claude Naville
Chorus master: Matti Hyökki
Make-up and hair: Sirpa Heiskanen

Cast
Daland, a Norwegian captain / Matti Salminen
Senta, his daughter, soprano / Amber Wagner
Erik, a huntsman, tenor / Corey Bix
Mary, Senta´s nurse, alto / Marit Sauramo
The Steersman, tenor / Jussi Myllys
The Dutchman, baritone / Juha Uusitalo (1. act), Thomas Hall (2. and 3. acts)

Savonlinna Opera Festival Orchestra
Savonlinna Opera Festival Choir

E-surtitles in Finnish and English. Visited in Olavinlinna, Savonlinna on 23 July 2012.

Savonlinnan Oopperajuhlat 5.7.-4.8.2012. Sata vuotta, sata tarinaa - A Hundred Years, a Hundred Stories. The festival catalogue and centenary book. Edited by Helena Kontiainen. Savonlinna Opera Festival, Savonlinna 2012.

Parallel listening during the week: Richard Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer. EMI Classics 2 cd, 2010. A recording from 1968 by BBC Chorus and New Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Otto Klemperer with Theo Adam (Dutchman), Anja Silja (Senta), and Martti Talvela (Daland). EMI Classics 2 cd with a bonus disc with the libretto in four languages, 2010.

The festival website: "The salty tang of life on board in the safe haven of a Norwegian fjord, catchy arias and stirring choruses: such is the recipe for an opera – the first of many masterpieces – composed by the young Richard Wagner on a mighty wave of inspiration. One of the Opera Festival’s greatest productions ever since it first came ashore in Savonlinna, The Flying Dutchman has also made many highly-acclaimed tours abroad."

"This candid, down-to-earth version of the story of the Dutch sea captain doomed to sail the seven seas forever, and of Senta, passionately in love with the character in an ancient legend, and its inevitable tragic ending never fails to enchant all who see it, first-timers and seasoned Wagnerians alike."

Ilmo Pokkinen in the introduction to the festival's libretto edition: "In 1841 Wagner put the finishing touches to the first of his three early masterpieces, the romantic opera The Flying Dutchman. The story of the legendary seafarer condemned to sail for ever unless he could find salvation in the love of a faithful woman called forth an echo in the composer's soul. His interest was further enhanced by a journey from Riga via Pillau to London to escape his creditors during which the little schooner got caught in a storm off the coast of Norway and sought refuge in a fjord. Wagner thus had personal experience of the cruel sea and the rough men that sailed it. The incorporation of this personal experience was a major new element of the Flying Dutchman, giving the ballad a fresh and salty tang. It was in The Flying Dutchman that Wagner first discovered his true voice as a composer. The Dutchman took him one step nearer to the dramatically unified opera in which the borders between arias and ensembles cease to exist. He had not yet arrived at his pure Leitmotiv technique, but it was already possible to observe the shape of things to come. The motifs connected with the sea, the curse, and the redemption can be heard throughout the work, making the structure of the opera more coherent." (Ilmo Pokkinen)

Savonlinna Opera Festival is celebrating its centenary with premieres of new operas and highlights of its greatest successes. Their centenary book is an especially valuable publication with facts, evaluations, and testimonies. The festival started as a labour of love and continues in a spirit of great inspiration and passion.

I am not an opera-goer but I do listen to opera regularly. I now saw The Flying Dutchman for the first time, but I was familiar with the music. The Flying Dutchman belongs to the greatest successes in the history of the festival.

The medieval Olavinlinna castle is a formidable setting for any opera. The stage has special characteristics and challenges. The format is like huge CinemaScope with little depth of field. Most of the action takes place horizontally on the stage with its stairs, elevated passages and doorways. The acoustics is excellent. Even when the orchestra is playing at full force and the choir is singing at the top of their voices it is easy to follow the individual voices of the vocalists singing to the 2000 piece audience.

The big name drawing cards were Juha Uusitalo as the Dutchman and Matti Salminen as Daland, but Juha Uusitalo had to withdraw with his flu after the first act, and Thomas Hall took his place. Matti Salminen has been singing Daland's great aria all his life, and he did fine again.

But the revelation of the performance was Amber Wagner as Senta, and Amber Wagner's passionate and delicate interpretation of the ballad of Senta ("Traft ihr das Schiff im Meere an, blutrot die Segel, schwarz der Mast?") was a highlight of the evening.

The choir was magnificent. The dynamics of the opera - the changes from lyrical and elegiac passages to powerful storm and crowd scenes - can really only be appreciated in a live performance.

Film-related: John Williams may have been inspired in his Star Wars score by Richard Wagner and particularly The Flying Dutchman. There are references to the story in various movies, especially in Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, and more recently in one of the Pirates of the Caribbean films. Murnau's Nosferatu may have been inspired by this opera in the mighty way in which the ghost ship is portrayed and also in the conclusion: the young woman sacrifices her life in a Liebestod, releasing the undead finally from his curse (the conclusion of Bram Stoker's novel is quite different). Today Tim Burton would be an interesting choice to direct a film adaptation. Christopher Lee would be an ideal Dutchman, although the bass role belongs to Daland.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Christopher Nolan on the 2012 Aurora Shooting

In the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora at about 12:38 a.m. on Friday, 20 July, 2012 a masked patron who identified himself as The Joker and who had left the screening through an emergency exit, re-entered the cinema by the first gun scene of the movie wearing a ballistic armour and a gas mask and armed with two canisters emitting gas or smoke, a shotgun, a semi-automatic rifle, and a handgun. The shooting injured 70 people, with ten dying at the scene and two in local hospitals, "the most victims of any mass shooting in the United States". The killer had reportedly taken Vicodin, like Heath Ledger (who played The Joker in The Dark Knight) before his suicide. "Side effects of Vicodin include euphoria, paranoia and hallucinations". The killer had also created a Batman themed voicemail message. (The facts and quotes are from Wikipedia in English).

Christopher Nolan later on the 20th July of 2012: "Speaking on behalf of the cast and crew of 'The Dark Knight Rises,' I would like to express our profound sorrow at the senseless tragedy that has befallen the entire Aurora community. I would not presume to know anything about the victims of the shooting but that they were there last night to watch a movie. I believe movies are one of the great American art forms and the shared experience of watching a story unfold on screen is an important and joyful pastime. The movie theater is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me. Nothing any of us can say could ever adequately express our feelings for the innocent victims of this appalling crime, but our thoughts are with them and their families."

I agree with the citizens of Aurora that we shouldn't mention the name of the killer. The motivation of rampage killers like him is to gain immortality to their names, and we should deny it from them. The copycat impact is also evident for deranged people.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A look at the weekend's papers

We are spending our holiday at our summer cottage, but once a week we visit civilization, the city of Savonlinna, with its excellent bookstores, including four well-stocked second hand bookstores. This time I select a rare volume of one of my favourite writers in any language, Samuli Paulaharju, Kuva sieltä, toinen täältä (kautta Suur-Suomen) [An Image from There, Another from Here (from the Greater Finland)], originally published in 1919, re-edited and published posthumously in 1944 with a foreword by another great writer and scholar, Martti Haavio. This book is never mentioned among the central works of Paulaharju, but he never published anything of secondary value, and this collection could even be a good place to start reading Paulaharju. The book starts with a short story called "On the Forest Path" which ends with a night spent at a hunters' smoke sauna, continues with an account of the ancient smoke houses of Karelia and proceeds through all Finland until the far north, the even more ancient (pre-Ice Age) Skolt Sami at Lake Nuorttijärvi in the Kola Peninsula by the Arctic Ocean; the lake, now in Russia, is now known as Lake Kotozero.

A nice bonus at Savonlinnan Antikvariaatti: from Jorma Mutikainen I receive a can of unidentified old film to be deposited with the KAVA; the subject is reportedly "A Karelian Village Ball". The edge marking informs it's nitrate. It's in good condition, no smell, no decomposition, and deciphering the Kodak edge code back at our cottage the stock turns out to be from the year 1934 from Rochester.

4 March 2013: The nitrate footage has been identified. It is a unique and highly valuable fragment of a lost Finnish feature film called Kalevalan mailta [From the Land of Kalevala] (FI 1935, P: Kurt Jäger, D: Kalle Kaarna).

The R-kioski newspaper stand of Savonlinna is well-stocked, too; not bad for the international audience of the Savonlinna Opera Festival. This is an age of financial turbulence which we have been following via the radio, the internet, and the daily Helsingin Sanomat. Today's Kauppalehti [Daily Commerce] reports on the alarming global wheat crop prognoses. Finland belongs to the countries suffering from too much rain; the U.S. and Russia are suffering from record drought. Päivi Isotalus interviews Anu Nissinen from Sanoma media group about the problematic issue of publicly financed media reaching into the territory of the commercial media in Europe. Auli Valpola comments on the recent conduct of British banks regarding forged LIBOR (London interbank offered rate) estimates. The Suomen Kuvalehti weekly, our counterpart to Time and Newsweek, celebrates the centenary of the Savonlinna Opera Festival in an article by Pentti Savolainen. Heikki Saari has edited an extensive dossier on the splitting of the Rupert Murdoch media empire. The details are well-known, but it is amazing to review them in a larger context. If Citizen Kane is again voted as the best film in the Sight & Sound poll this year, it might by partly also because the story is still so topical and relevant. Juho Salminen has written an interesting study about opening up government records to the public, topical because the National Land Survey of Finland has given this year free online access to its high quality maps. The office will lose 1,5 million Euro every year, but the economic gain to the country might be hundredfold. In the weekend edition of International Herald Tribune Paul Krugman's column is always worth reading, and today he shares sarcastic observations on the V.I.P. syndrome. The theme of David Brooks is "Why our elites stink". Main news subjects include rogue traders at Barclay's in London, indications of cover-up in huge loss at JPMorgan, and fraud charges at Peregrine Financial Group, its founder Russell Wasendorf recovering from his suicide attempt. Financial Times Weekend's headlines include JPMorgan's trading losses, the bribe charges on the Kwok brothers in Hong Kong, and the ousting of the CEO of Barclay's. Extreme weather phenomena may be linked with the global weather change. There are food crisis fears because of the US drought. Die Zeit focuses on the problem of democracy in the turbulence of saving the Euro and the moral bankruptcy evident in the current cycle of bank fraud scandals. There is an article about how rich people are leaving the troubled economies of Southern Europe, and how house prices are soaring in London and Berlin because of the rich Greeks moving in.

Most of the papers also comment on the Higgs boson and the secret of the universe. And the 50th anniversary of The Rolling Stones. The Rolling Stones has been a part of my life since February 1966 when I first heard "19th Nervous Breakdown". Contemporary pop music during those months entered my teenage life and made sense (or nonsense) of the world most crucially from early 1966 until 1969. The last Rolling Stones title that immediately struck me was "Honky Tonk Women" in July 1969, but I kept listening to their albums until Exile on Main Street (1972) and also discovered their first albums and made further discoveries into their exciting rhythm & blues sources. The papers observe that The Rolling Stones rose to their greatest stage of success in the early 1970s, about the time when their greatest period of creativity ended.

The cultural sections are great. In International Herald Tribune there is an interview with the cinematographer Darius Khondji and another interview with Christopher Nolan, who has shot a large part (72 minutes) of Dark Knight Rises in the photochemical super format IMAX (horizontal 70 mm ESTAR film with 15-perforation). Die Zeit lauches a seven-part series of dossiers revisiting the European canon of literature, starting with 1945-1950, with Thomas Mann, Primo Levi, Ivo Andrić, Albert Camus, Curzio Malaparte, Malcolm Lowry, Knut Hamsun, George Orwell, Ernst Jünger, and Cesare Pavese. Financial Times invites Nicholas Serota, director of Tate, to lunch. Frank Gehry discusses the contribution of 3D design technology in Opus Hong Kong and Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas.

What to Expect When You're Expecting

Mitä odottaa kun odotat / What to Expect [Swedish title]. US © 2012 Lionsgate / Alcon Entertainment. P: Mike Medavoy, Arnold Messer, David Thwaites. D: Kirk Jones. SC: Shauna Cross, Heather Hach - inspired by the books (1984, etc.) by Heidi Murkoff. DP: Xavier Pérez Grobet - digital intermediate: EFilm. PD: Andrew Laws. AD: James F. Truesdale. Set dec: Halina Siwolop. Cost: Karen Patch. Makeup: Leigh Ann Yandle. Hair: Betty Lou Skinner. Prosthetic makeup: Margie Latinopoulos, Clinton Wayne. VFX: Hydraulx VFX, Crafty Apes, Method Studios, Encore VFX. M: Mark Mothersbaugh. S: Glenn T. Morgan. ED: Michael Berenbaum. Casting: Deborah Aquila, Tricia Wood. C (from English Wikipedia): Cameron Diaz (Jules Baxter, a contestant on a celebrity dance show and a host to a weight-loss fitness show), Jennifer Lopez (Holly, a woman who adopts a baby from abroad with her husband after difficulty conceiving), Elizabeth Banks (Wendy Cooper, Gary's wife who becomes pregnant. Runs the The Breast Choice Boutique), Chace Crawford (Marco, who reunites with an attractive old flame (Rosie) after a turf war between their respective food trucks), Brooklyn Decker (Skyler Cooper, the wife of a much older man named Ramsey), Anna Kendrick (Rosie, who reunites with an old flame and fellow food-truck owner and becomes pregnant but sadly suffers a miscarriage), Matthew Morrison (Evan Baxter, who teams with Jules on a celebrity dance show), Dennis Quaid (Ramsey Cooper, the husband of Skyler), Chris Rock (Vic Mac, founder of the "dude group"), Rodrigo Santoro (Alex, Holly's husband who's in music business and is not ready to have a child), Ben Falcone (Gary Cooper, Wendy's husband and son of Ramsey), Joe Manganiello (Davis), Rob Huebel (Gale, a new parent who adjusts to "fatherdom" by bonding with other dads in a city park-based group that is part play group, part secret society), Thomas Lennon (Craig, a father who joins Vic's "dude group"), Amir Talai (Patel, a father who joins Vic's "dude group"), Rebel Wilson (Janice, an employee at The Breast Choice boutique), Wendi McLendon-Covey (Kara, Holly's co-worker and friend), Dwyane Wade (cameo as himself), Whitney Port (cameo as herself), Megan Mullally (cameo as herself), Cheryl Cole (cameo as TV dance talent show judge), Tyce Diorio (cameo as TV dance talent show judge), Taboo (cameo as TV dance talent show judge), Kim Fields (a social worker who helps out a couple with an adoption), Jesse Burch (Hutch Davidson), Mimi Gianopulos (Molly, Rosie's funny roommate who comforts and supports her), Génesis Rodríguez (Courtney, Rosie's roommate). Loc: Atlanta (Georgia). 110 min. Released in Finland by Future Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Janne Kauppila / Heidi Nyblom. 2K DCP viewed at Bio Olavi, Savonlinna, 16 July 2012.

Technical specs (IMDb): Camera: Arri Alexa, Cooke S4 and Angenieux Optimo Lenses - Laboratory: DeLuxe, EFilm (digital intermediate) - Source format: Codex - Cinematographic process: ARRIRAW (2.8K) (source format), Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format) - Release format: 35 mm (anamorphic), D-Cinema - Aspect ratio: 2.35:1.

English Wikipedia about the books: "What to Expect When You're Expecting is a pregnancy guide, now in its fourth edition, written by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel and published by Workman Publishing. Originally published in 1984, the book consistently tops The New York Times Best Seller list in the paperback advice category, is one of USA Today's '25 Most Influential Books' of the past 25 years and has been described as 'the bible of American pregnancy'. As of 2008, over 14.5 million copies were in print. According to USA Today, 93 percent of all expectant mothers who read a pregnancy guide read What to Expect When You're Expecting." There is a whole family of books under the What to Expect label.

About the movie: "The story follows five Atlanta couples who 'suffer the many joys of the childbirth process'. Ramsey and Skyler are married, Gary is Ramsey's son (Gary and Wendy are married). Skyler's cousin is Rosie (who is involved with Marco). Gary was on Jules' weight loss program who met with the dancer Evan whom she is having a baby with. And finally to tie it all in, Wendy's photographer is Holly (married to Alex) who recommends Skyler to use her for photos later on." (English Wikipedia).

Sometimes a good movie may be inspired by an unlikely source, such as Woody Allen's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask), inspired by and parodying David Reuben's best-selling sex manual. I also liked Nora Ephron's Julie & Julia based on Julie Powell's blog in which she reported on her project to cook all the recipes in Julia Child's cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Although I was aware of the reviews I was expecting a better movie than What to Expect is. I like Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez, but sometimes an indifferent movie can result from good ingredients. This comedy is a multi-character study, a cross-section of society, of mothers of different ages and occupations. There is a miscarriage, there is a Caesarean section, there are twins. A feelgood movie, What to Expect doesn't avoid difficult and painful facts of life, but somehow it remains on the surface and fails to engross.

Finland is a country where mothercare, circumstances of pregnancy and terms of motherhood have been traditionally exceptionally advanced, and the circumstances of these Atlantan stories seem somewhat strange to a Finnish viewer. Probably What to Expect will be a hit among young Finnish mothers anyway.

The colour is bright and the image is clear in the 2K DCP.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Retretti 2012

Retretti Art Center, Punkaharju, Friday 13 July 2012.

A visit to Retretti Art Center is an ideal way to spend a rainy day.

Retretti's underground cave complex may have never been put to better use. Around 30 modern Finnish artists are on display, and the curator of the exhibition, Marketta Haila, has succeeded very well in creating a consistent total experience in which there is plenty of room for the individual artworks, some of them unique for this exhibition only. There are many familiar names for cinéastes such as Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Cleaning Women, Veli Granö, Seppo Renvall, Salla Tykkä, and Roi Vaara. Kaija Saariaho's composition Lichtbogen is combined with the sound of the aurora borealis and the visual music by Jean-Baptiste Barrière. Among the grand designs are Charles Sandison's Red and White and Cleaning Women's apocalyptic and effective Q4: The Last Quarter Year.

A well-considered Retretti tradition is to exhibit the best-loved classic works of Finnish art in new contexts, discovering unknown works along the best-known ones. Tyko Sallinen's key works are the well-known ones this year. Curated by Ulla Vihanta, the "Jytkyt Retretissä: Tyko Sallinen ja villit ekspressionistit" exhibition puts them into the context of his generation of the wild and bohemian Expressionists of the 1910s: Jalmari Ruokokoski, Valle Rosenberg, Alvar Cawén, William Lönnberg, Eemu Myntti, Eero Nelimarkka, and Juho Mäkelä. Another context is that we get to see different versions of Sallinen's key subjects side by side. A yet another context is that of history: that the background of two of Sallinen's famous paintings, Jytkyt [The Barn Dance, 1918] and Hihhulit [The Religious Fanatics, 1918] was our tragic Civil War.

Tyko Sallinen has a special impact on me. When I first saw a Tyko Sallinen exhibition, his centenary exhibition at Taidehalli, Helsinki, in March 1979, I experienced for the first time something that was close to the Stendhal syndrome. This impact I only experience at the oil paintings themselves when I can see them without reflecting glasses.

I cannot relate to most official introductions of Tyko Sallinen; they seem to miss the point. I happened to hear something of the exhibition guide's account, too, and it distracted and distanced me from the paintings. The current Tyko Sallinen reception emphasizes his terrible conduct with his wife, the talented Helmi Vartiainen. The exhibition starts with a series of Tyko Sallinen's expressionist portraits of his wife in which he abandons realistic representation. Instead, creatures from the world of instincts emerge.

But even the visions from the world of instincts are not the point. Beyond the instincts Sallinen conveys a deep spirituality. Natural forms are grotesquely deformed and defamiliarized to lead us to a journey to the beyond.

Sallinen was a desperate creature like Vincent Van Gogh, and there is a sense of urgency in his best work. These paintings were a matter of life and death for him. His oeuvre is a tragic journey.

The Taidehalli 1979 experience of Tyko Sallinen still remains definitive for me. The Retretti 2012 experience is more analytical and distanced, even condemning. Certain key works are impossible to assess because of the reflective glasses, but of the great majority the naked surface was on display. Breathtaking. After the exhibition I had to digest what I'd seen and recover in the garden.

A film-related comment: although expressionism was a significant trend in Finnish art a hundred years ago, there was no expressionistic Finnish cinema at the time. Finnish cinema was conventional for decades.

Retretti exhibition catalogues have been of great and permanent value. This year, in the current economical situation, no catalogue was published, unfortunately.

The restaurant space has been leased this year to SIS. Deli+Café which has more ambition and a better menu than the entrepreneurs of recent years. There is a good buffet lunch with local season's products.

Retretti: Tyko Sallinen and the Wild Expressionists (introduction by Ulla Vihanta)

Tyko Sallinen and the Wild Expressionists. The Jytkyt exhibition in Retretti Art Center, Punkaharju, 9 June 2012 – 28 August 2012. Viewed on Friday, 13 July 2012.

Official introduction: ""The bad boy" of the art world Tyko Sallinen and his unruly comrades in art take Retretti over this summer. Our summer 2012 classic exhibition introduces the bohemian expressionists that shook the Finnish art world a century ago."

"Tyko Sallinen (1878-1955), Jalmari Ruokokoski (1886-1936), Valle Rosenberg (1891-1919), Alvar Cawén (1886-1935), William Lönnberg (1887-1949), Eemu Myntti (18890-1943) and Juho Mäkelä (1885-1943) belonged to the avant-garde of young, radical expressionists whose works raised scandal and admiration alike, but who later set the direction for modern art in Finland."

"This summer, you can see the most important works of the entire wild bunch of artists at Retretti. The exhbition includes the female depictions 'Mirrit' ('Pussycats'), shocking at the time, and the earth-shaking ’Jytkyt’ ('Barn Dance'), ’Piruntanssit’ ('Devil's Dance') and ’Hihhulit’ ('Bible Thumpers'). The portraits by Jalmari Ruokokoski of his wife Elviira, staged in the world of circus and the theatre, and Juho Mäkelä's famous 'Viinapullo' ('Liquor Bottle') are also exhibited."

"The strong works of Valle Rosenberg, Alvar Cawén, William Lönnberg, Eemu Myntti and Eero Nelimarkka are known for their especially bold use of colour and highly personal, even primitive portraying of human figures."

"In the fine colour art of the 1910s, international influences blend naturally with national tradition and its subjects. The works of young radicals were the cause of disapproval and admiration both at the time – now, they are icons of their times."

Ulla Vihanta: Uutta ihmistä etsimässä. 1910-luvun suomalaisesta ekspressionismista

Muutoksia taiteilijakuvassa

"Taiteilijan suuresta tulevaisuudesta haaveilleiden nuorten joukko oli kasvanut 1900-luvun alussa, kun Suomen Taideyhdistyksen kouluun Ateneumiin pyrkineiltä edellytettiin ainoastaan yläkansakoulun kurssin suorittamista. Sen seurauksena myös käsityöläisten, pienviljelijöiden, torppareiden ja jopa työläisperheiden pojat saattoivat tavoitella taiteilijan ammattia. Myöhemmin pääsyvaatimuksia kiristettiin, sillä koulun johto oli pelästynyt ”taiteen temppeliin” pyrkineiden ”sivistymättömien” suurta määrää. Rajoituksista huolimatta pelätty taiteilijaproletariaatti kotiutui Suomeen. Samalla Suomi sai omat taiteilijaboheeminsa, joiden elämää leimasi köyhyys ja kapinointi."

"Rahvaan joukosta nousseiden taiteilijoiden oli ongelmallista samastua porvaristoon, mutta nouseva sosialismi ei liioin saanut kannatusta taiteilijaköyhälistön keskuudessa. Monet kapinallisista piirsivät pilakuvia sosialistisiin lehtiin, mutta poliittista sitoutumista ja poliittisesti arkaluontoisia aiheita välteltiin. Sosiaalisesta noususta haaveilleet taiteilijat ymmärsivät, että sosialistin maine ei edistänyt taiteilijan uraa porvarillisessa yhteiskunnassa, ja siksi he pyrkivät eristäytymään omaksi esteettiseksi taiteilijoiden luokakseen. Yhteiskunnallis-sosiaalisen luokkataistelun sijaan 1910-luvun boheemitaiteilijoiden kumouksellisuus kohdistui kansallisen ja kansallisromanttisen taidesuuntauksen vastustamiseen ja kansainvälisen modernismin puolustamiseen."

Ihanteellinen kansankuvaus väistyy

"1900-luvun alun poliittis-yhteiskunnalliset muutokset, ennen kaikkea edustuksellisen kansanvallan läpimurto – 1906 toteutunut ääni- ja vaalioikeus sekä valtiopäiväreformi – vaikuttivat nuorten modernistien maailmankuvaan. Valtiollisen sorron heiketessä myös henkinen ilmapiiri vapautui. 1910-luku merkitsi kuvataiteelle kumouksellista vaihetta, murrosta, jossa ranskalainen impressionimi, fauvismi, saksalainen ekspressionismi ja jopa kubismi rantautuivat Suomeen. Ensimmäisenä saapuneen impressionismin omaksumista edisti ruotsinkielinen sivistyneistö. Olennaisin tekijä kansainvälisten taidesuuntausten leviämiselle oli kuitenkin kansallisromanttisten ihanteiden, ennen kaikkea ihanteellisen kansankuvan romahtaminen."

"Särön ihanteelliseen kansankuvaukseen, myös kultakauden mestareiden romanttiseen käsitykseen kalevalaisesta kansasta, oli tuonut työväen syksyllä 1905 organisoima suurlakko, joka näytti hetkeksi yhdistäneen kansan. Työväestö koki vapaudenhuumassaan lakon lähes pyhänä hankkeena, jossa ”herrat kulkivat halvan työmiehen rinnalla”. Sivistyneistö puolestaan tunsi päässeensä lähelle etsimäänsä ja ihannoimaansa kansaa. Lakon jälkeen asenteet kuitenkin kovenivat. Kansa nähtiin uhkaavana ja kontrolloimattomana massana. Akseli Gallen-Kallela luonnehti lakkoilijoiden joukkovoimaa maalauksessaan Suurlakon tuokiokuva (1905) ”aggressiivisten moukkien aiheuttamana sekasortona”. Poliittinen kuohunta ja rahvaan pelottavaksi koettu voima pakottivat sivistyneistön arvioimaan kriittisesti 1800-luvulta periytynyttä kehitysoptimistista ja yli-idealistista
kansankuvaa.
"

"Kansan ihannointi oli ollut osa Suomen itsenäistymispyrkimyksiä, mutta kysymys kansojen alkuperästä ja länsimaisesta identiteetistä oli noussut esiin myös eurooppalaisessa kulttuurifilosofisessa ajattelussa. Suomalaisten asema osana länsimaista identiteettiä oli rotuoppien valossa osoittautunut ongelmalliseksi. Antropologisissa tutkimuksissa suomalaisia – ruotsinkielistä rannikkoväestöä lukuun ottamatta – oli pidetty lyhytkalloisina mongoleina. Taide-elämän johtohahmot halusivat kuitenkin korostaa suomalaista kulttuuria osana länsimaista kulttuuria. Näin ollen oli ymmärrettävää, että proletaaritaiteilijoiden nousu 1910-luvulla herätti monissa huolestuneisuutta."

"Suurlakon jälkeisestä ilmapiirin muutoksesta kertoo myös päivälehtien sivuilla käyty kiivas keskustelu nuoren modernistin Tyko Sallisen Suomen Taideyhdistyksen vuoden 1912 kevätkatselmuksessa esillä olleista, ranskalaisesta fauvismista vaikutteita saaneista maalauksista Pyykkärit, Mirri ja Alaston. Valtaosa kriitikoista hyökkäsi ”lankkumaalarin” epäsovinnaisina pidettyjä naiskuvia vastaan. Myös Mirrin itäsuomalaiset rotupiirteet arveluttivat konservatiivisia taidekriitikkoja. Saman vuoden syksyllä Sallinen riitaantui Suomen Taiteilijaseuran kokouksessa taide-elämän keskeisen vaikuttajan Akseli Gallen-Kallelan kanssa. Kokouksesta karkotettu kapinallinen, vallankumousta taiteilijaseurassa yrittänyt Sallinen, matkusti joitakin päiviä myöhemmin Yhdysvaltoihin, jossa hän viipyi seuraavaan syksyyn asti. Myös henkilökohtaisia ongelmiaan paennut taiteilija elätti itsensä uudella mantereella kuvittamalla mm. sosialistista Amerikan Työmies -lehteä."

Ekspressionisteja ja avantgardisteja

"Ateneumissa tammikuussa 1909 esillä ollut Edvard Munchin teosten näyttely oli nuorille taiteilijoille hämmentävä kokemus. Suomen Taideyhdistyksen koulun opetukseen, sen sovinnaiseen akateemisuuteen, kyllästyneet taiteilijat tunnistivat Munchin maalauksissa eurooppalaisen modernismin – avantgarden, joka resonoi heidän omaan sisäiseen tunnetilaansa. Munchin ekspressionistiset maalaukset näyttivät konkretisoineen nuorten kapinallisten ikään kuin piiloon jääneet, vaistomaiset ja tiedostamattomat odotukset tulossa olevasta uudesta: merkityksellisestä tavasta kuvata värein ja muodoin kaksiulotteiselle kankaalle taiteilijasubjektin sisäistä todellisuutta. Nuoret suomalaistaiteilijat ymmärsivät Munchin teosten äärellä, että taiteilijan ei tullut tarjota ikkunaa ulos luontoon, vaan hänen tuli ensisijaisesti avata näkymä taiteilijan sisimpään."

"Munchin ”puhdas taide” rohkaisi William Lönnbergiä, Juho Mäkelää, Jalmari Ruokokoskea ja Tyko Sallista uudistamaan taiteellista ilmaisuaan. Todennäköisesti se rohkaisi myös Ateneumissa opiskellutta, Sortavalasta kotoisin ollutta Helmi Vartiaista, jonka kanssa Sallinen avioitui tammikuussa 1909. Avioliiton solmimisen jälkeen pariskunta matkusti Pariisiin, jossa uudet vaikutteet mullistivat nuorten suomalaistaiteilijoiden koko visuaalista ajattelua. Erityisesti ranskalaisten fauvistien anarkistinen tapa käyttää värejä ja deformoida muotoa vapautti Sallisen rajuun sisäiseen purkaukseen, siihen ”karuun runollisuuteen”, joka kuvastaa 1910-luvun suomalaista ekspressionismia."

"Helmi Vartiaiselle Pariisissa vietetyt kuukaudet toivat kuitenkin jo varjon hänen henkilökohtaisiin, taiteilijuutta koskeneisiin haaveisiinsa. Nuoren naistaiteilijan, Tukaattitytön (1914), traaginen kohtalo oli olla puolisolleen inspiroiva objekti. Sallisen taiteelliseen menestykseen johtaneiden alastontutkielmien ja Mirri-maalausten mallina ollut Helmi Vartiainen oli peili, johon ankaran lapsuuden lestadiolaisperheessä kokenut Tyko Sallinen heijasti omia ristiriitojaan, ärtymystään ja vihaansa. Mirrin herkässä, viattomuutta ja aistillisuutta kuvastavassa olemuksessa voi tunnistaa Sallisen naissukupuolta kohtaan tunteman torjunnan, joidenkin mukaan jopa inhon tunteen. Tunteen alkujuuria on etsittävä taiteilijan kiihkouskonnollisen äidin ankarasta, ”naisen lihallisuuden” tuominneesta ahdasmielisyydestä. ”Hurskaan” äidin uskonnollisen moralismin ehdottomuus ja pelottava kovuus – vaatimus vapautua synnillisten viettien orjuudesta – kuvastuu Sallisen maalauksesta Taiteilijan äiti (1916). Torjunnan taustalla voidaan tunnistaa myös luonnontieteellisen maailmankuvan vaikutus. Positivismin seurauksena ihminen nähtiin ensi sijassa biologisena, viettien ja vaistojen hallitsemana olentona."

"Mirri-tutkielmia on hedelmällistä tarkastella kulttuuria manifestoivan miehisyyden, aktiivisen subjektin, sekä passiivisen luonnon, naisen ja hänen ruumiinsa, välisenä dialogina. Myös Sallisen Omakuvassa (1914) korostuu maskuliininen, autoritaarinen subjekti. Sallisen ylikorostunut miehisyys, hänen sisäistämänsä patriarkaalinen valtajärjestelmä, ulottui puolisoa kuvaavia maalauksia inhimillisesti syvemmälle ja synkemmälle tasolle. Kesäkuussa 1920 kuollut Helmi Vartiainen oli joutunut vastoin tahtoaan luopumaan jo varhain lapsistaan. Vaikeasti ymmärrettäviä tapahtumia ei selitä edes se, että suomalaisessa yhteiskunnassa nainen oli vielä 1900-luvun alkupuolella miehen holhousvallan alainen ja vailla itsemääräämisoikeutta."

"Sortavalan Riekkalassa 1911 maalatun fauvistisen Pyykkärit-teoksen kesäpäivän valo ja elämänilo, la joie de vivre, näkyvät harvoin Sallisen tuotannossa. Uusimpressionistisen l’art pour l’art -asenteen sijaan Sallisen maalauksissa kuvastuu ekspressionistien halu tunkeutua syvälle inhimilliseen elämään. Edvard Munchin maalauksissa korostunut eroottisuus, seksuaalisen vietin tuhoava ja uutta luova voima, jättivät jälkensä Sallisen taiteeseen. Nuori Sallinen oli Munchin tavoin oppinut sisällyttämään omia sisäisiä tunteitaan maalauksen pintaan, väreihin ja muotoon. Kun Ateneumissa nähtiin keväällä 1913 Sallisen lähipiiriin kuuluneen Jalmari Ruokokosken näyttely, Arvid Järnefelt ylisti Ruokokosken ”sisällistä näkemistä, sisällistä kuulemista, sisällistä tuntemusta”. Järnefelt painotti, että todellinen taiteilija on ihminen, jolla on halua ja kykyä siirtää oma sisäinen näkemyksensä – ”tosi taiteen ainoa pyhättö” – ulkonaisesti näkyvään muotoon."

"Taiteilijan sisäisen elämän näkeminen ”todellisen” taiteen lähteenä merkitsi sekä taiteilijasubjektin että taiteilijaelämän romantisointia ja ylikorostamista. Tietoisuus taiteilijan ainutlaatuisuudesta kuvastuu monissa 1910-luvun omakuvissa, kuten Pohjanmaan museon kokoelmiin kuuluvassa Juho Mäkelän ekspressionistisessa, pelottomuutta ja sisäistä voimaa kuvastavassa Omakuvassa (1910) sekä Eero Nelimarkan melankolisissa, Pohjolan kevään läpikuultavin ja haurain värein maalaamissa, ihmisen haavoittuvuutta heijastavissa omakuvissa."

"Tietoisuus taiteilijan muista poikkeavasta yksilöllisyydestä kuvastuu erityisesti ”ultramodernin” dandyn ja boheemin, nuorena keuhkotautiin kuolleen Valle Rosenbergin nietzscheläistä yli-ihmisyyttä heijastavasta Omakuvasta (1910). Oman  persoonallisuuden ja identiteetin tietoiseen rakentamiseen, jopa ylimielisyyteen, kietoutui usein epävarmuus omista mahdollisuuksista. Sisäistä epävarmuutta suojannut kovuus näkyy muun muassa niissä Jalmari Ruokokosken omakuvissa jotka röyhkeyden, itsetietoisuuden ja ylimielisyyden lisäksi kertovat pettymyksestä elämään."

"Sirkustaiteilija Elvira Bonon kanssa keväällä 1910 avioituneen Ruokokosken sisäinen ristiriitaisuus kuvastuu omakuvista mutta myös 1910 valmistuneesta öljymaalauksesta Rakkaus. Viistosti ylös korkeuksiin katsova maalauksen malli, rakkauden kohde, muistuttaa Tyko Sallisen Mirri-tutkielmia pidättyvämmin, että luonnon kanssa sovussa oleva hedelmällinen nainen on sisäisesti sidoksissa universaaliin kiertoon, maan ja taivaankappaleiden rytmiin. Maalaus myös muistuttaa, että luonnontieteet olivat humanistisen ihmiskuvan kannalta pessimistisimmillään alistaneet ihmisen vähäpätöiseksi rattaaksi ikuisten lakien hallitsemassa maailmankaikkeudessa. Yön siniselle taustalle luonnosmaisesti maalatun pyörteen, suojaavan turkiskauluksen, keskelle sijoitettu subjekti kuvastaa ihmisen eksistentialistista yksinäisyyttä ja elämän hetkellisyyttä."

"Nuoret modernistit tutkivat omakuvissa omaa sisintään, mutta he etsivät elämän vitalistista alkuvoimaa myös alastontutkielmissa, joissa luovan ihmisen kamppailu jännittyi maskuliinisen subjektin sekä naiseutta edustavan luonnon väliseksi vastakkainasetteluksi. Tyko Sallisen paljaaksi riisuma Mirri – kuten Valle Rosenbergin Alaston tai Eemu Myntin Merenneito – oli kuin tuntematon, ulottumattomissa oleva manner. Viime kädessä taiteilija ja hänen mallinsa, tuo toinen minussa, olivat kuitenkin samaa yhteistä kudosta."

Marraskuulaista melankoliaa

"Modernismi murtautui suomalaiseen kuvataiteeseen vuosina 1912–14. Liberaalin henkisen ilmapiirin ohella modernismin läpimurtoon vaikuttivat suotuisat taloudelliset suhdanteet, ennen kaikkea taidekaupan elpyminen. Uusia taidesuuntauksia suosinut taidekauppias Gösta Stenman oli korvaamaton tuki nuorille kapinallisille, erityisesti Tyko Salliselle, joka saattoi säännöllisten tulojen turvin keskittyä maalamaan. Pyykkäreiden elämänilo oli kuitenkin kadonnut, kun taiteilijan subjektiivinen, intiimi elämänpiiri oli tuhoutunut. Avioliiton tuhoutumisen tai tietoisen tuhoamisen myötä Sallinen hylkäsi Munchin maalauksissa korostuneen eroottisen vietin, sen sokean ja pelottavan mahdin, jota taiteilija näytti pitäneen sisäisten ristiriitojen ja kärsimyksen lähteenä."

"Sallisen henkilögalleria laajeni 1910-luvun puolivälissä, ja hänen taiteensa sai aiempaa selvemmin suomalaiskansallisia, myös konservatiivisten taidepiirien hyväksymiä piirteitä. Taiteilijan ihmiskuva synkkeni ja puhtaan paletin värit tummuivat harmaan sarkakankaan ja marraskuun raskasmielisyydeksi. Nuoruuden uhma, ylimielisyys ja vitalismi olivat karisseet Hyvinkäälle asettuneen Sallisen ekspressionismista. Itsetietoisuuden ja itsevarmuuden sijaan Marraskuun ryhmän taidetta sävyttivät melankolia ja syvistä kansanriveistä kumpuava uskonnollisuus."

"Tyko Sallisen tavoin myös Eero Nelimarkka oli kasvanut vahvan uskonnollisuuden ympäröimänä. Sekä Sallinen että Nelimarkka olivat kokeneet uskonnollisen yhteisön kiihkeyden ja ehdottomuuden, mutta heidän purkautumistapansa oli erilainen. Etelä-Pohjanmaalla herännäisyyden vaikutuspiirissä kasvanut Nelimarkka kätki tunteensa alakuloisilta mutta levollisilta vaikuttaviin sisäkuviin, henkilökuviin ja maisemiin. Kun Sallinen tutki ihmisen primitiivisiä, seksuaalisuuteen kietoutuneita uskonnollisia tunteita ahtaassa, ihmisjoukon täyttämässä tilassa, Nelimarkan maalauksissa uskonnollisuus sulautui suurten lakeuksien avaruuteen ja hiljaisuuteen. Pariisissa useaan otteeseen opiskelleen, fauvismista ja kubismista vaikutteita saaneen Alvar Cawénin uskonnollisuus kietoutui puolestaan esteettiseen hienostuneisuuteen: kubistisesti jäsenneltyyn tilaan, musikaalisuuden sävyttämiin väreihin ja ihmisen arvokkuutta korostavaan, tolstoilaisen sosiaalisen myötätunnon jalostamaan ihmiskuvaan. Mielellään luonnonrauhaan vetäytyneen, Korpilahden pappilassa kasvaneen Alvar Cawénin uskonnollisuus kuvastui ensi sijassa hänen aristokraattisessa elämänasenteessaan: sisäisten arvojen kaipuussa – pyrkimyksessä henkisyyteen, sisäiseen nöyryyteen ja askeettisuuteen. Uskonnollisuuden ohella Marraskuun ryhmään integroituneen Cawénin taidetta hallitsi intellektuelli piirre, ominaisuus, joka on nähty vastakohtana Sallisen spontaanisuudelle."

Suomalaisuuden uutta identiteettiä etsimässä

"1910-luvun alussa ranskalaista kolorismia suosineen Alvar Cawénin, kuten myös muiden ekspressionistien, väri-ilo sammui kymmenluvun puolivälissä. Muutoksen syitä voidaan etsiä taiteilijoiden henkilökohtaisesta elämästä, mutta olennaisempaa on muistaa, että Suomi oli I maailmansodan aikana köyhä maa ja että poliittisesti jakautunut kansa oli ajautumassa repivään sisällissotaan. Tyko Sallinen ja hänen ympärilleen muodostuneen Marraskuun ryhmän taiteilijat sekä heidän mallinsa sijoittuivat dramaattisesti kahden aikakauden liitoskohtaan. Historian murros läpäisi heidän sisäisen maailmansa. Tässä historian murroksessa 1910-luvun ekspressionistit etsivät suomalaisen ihmisen identiteettiä. Jotkut pyrkivät vanhasuomalaisten hengessä hahmottelemaan suomalaisuudelle uutta alkua olettaen, että sivistyneistö ei tuntenut oikeata suomalaisuutta. Ekspressionisteja ei kuitenkaan kiinnostanut kansallisromantikkojen ihannoima talonpoikainen kansa, eivätkä he etsineet esikuvia muinaisen Kalevalan sankareista. Sen sijaan he halusivat osoittaa, että myös tavallinen rahvas – puunhakkaajat, palvelijat, perunankuorijat, kalastajanpojat, torpanmuorit, tehdastyöläiset ja kolmannessa luokassa matkustavat – oli kuvaamisen arvoista. Sallisen maalaama, kiivasta polemiikkia lehtien palstoilla herättänyt Kääpiö (1914–15) uhmasi kaikessa rujoudessaan ja primitiivisyydessään rotuhygieenikkojen arvoasetelmia."

"Vahvimmin uutta ihmiskuvaa muokkasi Tyko Sallinen, jonka haaveena oli maalata suuria sommitelmia kansallisista aiheista. Kansainvälisen menestyksen myötä asemansa myös kotimaassa vakiinnuttanut taiteilija siirtyi 1910-luvun loppupuolella tummien hirsiseinien sisäpuolelle, karheaan kankaaseen puetun kansan keskuuteen. Kun Sallinen maalasi vuonna 1918 Jytkyt, hän oli 39-vuotias. Yksityisen ihmisen sijaan Sallinen halusi tarkastella ihmistä osana fyysistä ja henkistä yhteisöä. Sekä Jytkyissä että samana vuonna valmistuneessa Hihhuleissa taiteilija syventyi joukkojen sieluun, niihin joukkoja suggeroiviin, arvaamattomiin ja alitajuisiin voimiin, jotka jo suurlakon yhteydessä olivat herättäneet sivistyneistössä suurta pelkoa."

"Työväentalon iltamien tunnelmaa kuvanneen maalauksen Jytkyt Sallinen teki sisällissodan taistelujen riehuessa talvella 1918. Niinpä konservatiivisia arvoja edustanut Onni Okkonen saattoi valistaa yleisöä toteamalla, että teos kuvasi punakaartilaisten nurkkatansseja. Punakaartilaisten sielunelämää enemmän taiteilijaa kiinnostivat ankaraan uskonnolliseen yhteisöön kuuluvat ihmiset, itselleen ja toisilleen vieraat yksilöt, jotka horjuivat synnillisyyden ja viattomuuden välisellä rajalla ja jotka kävivät sisäistä kamppailua muiden määrittelemien maailmojen rajoissa."

"Jytkyjen ja sen luonnoksen Piruntanssi II (1917) ideaan on tulkittu liittyvän yhtä lestadiolainen näkemys kuin Hihhuleihinkin. Uskonnollisesta hurmiosta muistuttavan tanssin pyörteet johtavat suoraan ”synnin riettaisiin orgioihin". Se, että taiteilija jätti lopullisesta maalauksesta Piruntanssi-maalauksen yläosaan kuvaamansa "synnilliset" mielikuvat piruineen pois, saattaa johtua ajan poliittisesta tilanteesta. Työväentalon paheellisuus oli iskostettu jo riittävän tehokkaasti kansan tietoisuuteen; osalle porvaristoa työväentalo oli ”pirulle rakennettu temppeli”. Punakaartilaisen muotokuvan vuonna 1917 maalannut Sallinen halusi todennäköisesti kärjistämisen sijaan – ikään kuin poliittisia ristiriitoja sovitelleen – kuvata työväentalolla kansanjoukkoa, jota yhdisti yhteinen odotus: toive jostain ulkopuolelta tulevasta, sisäisestä ja yhteiskunnallisesta ahdistuksesta vapauttavasta voimasta."

"Tyko Sallisen henkilökohtainen kapinointi modernistina huipentui 1917–18 maalatuissa henkilösommitelmissa. Hänen ekspressionisminsa vahva jännite laukesi Hihhulit- ja Jytkyt-maalausten myötä. ”Seestyvä uskonnollisuus" tuli jatkossa yhä selvemmin hallitsemaan Sallisen maalauksia."

Epilogi

"Modernismin komea 1910-luku päättyi sisällissotaan, punaisten lietsomaan kapinaan ja valkoisten vapaussotaan. Valtaosa taiteilijoista asettui valkoisten rintamaan, jopa monet 1910-luvun modernisteista, jotka sosiaaliselta taustaltaan olivat lähellä tappion kokeneita punaisia. Vuoden 1918 tapahtumat heijastuivat monin tavoin nuoren tasavallan taideelämään. 1910-luvun vapaamielinen, kansainvälisen modernismin sallinut ilmapiiri väistyi. Taide-elämän konservatiivinen johto ryhtyi 1920-luvun alussa uudistamaan taideopetusta ja torjumaan ulkomailta, erityisesti Ranskasta, tulevia vaikutteita."

"1910-luvun modernistien ja taiteilijaboheemien sivullisuuden tunne sisällissodan jälkeisessä Suomessa kuvastuu Marraskuun ryhmään kuuluneen Ilmari Aallon koruttomasta, 1920-luvun alussa maalatusta teoksesta Karvalakkimies. Ateneumin taidemuseon kokoelmiin kuuluva muotokuva muistuttaa, että nuorten ekspressionistien itsevarmuus ja ylimielisyys olivat lopullisesti hiipuneet." (Ulla Vihanta)

Lähdekirjallisuutta
Aatteet ja asenteet, Suomen työväen henkinen perinne. Toim. Matti Hako, Heimo Huhtanen, Matti Nieminen. Helsinki 1967.
Hämäläinen-Forslund, Pirjo: Tuhlaajapoika ja narrikuningas. Minä, Jalmari Ruokokoski.
Hyvinkään taidemuseo 13.6.–31.8.1997. Kerava 1997, 4–17.
Kansa kaikkivaltias. Suurlakko Suomessa 1905. Helsinki 2008.
Laitila, Inka-Maria & Strandén Tarja: Tukaattityttö. Mirri-kuvien takaa katsoo Helmi Vartiainen. Helsinki 2002.
Linder, Marja-Liisa: Ihmisen kuva. Tyko Sallisen muotokuvissa 1905–1919. Tampereen taidemuseon julkaisuja 120. Tampere 2005.
Reitala, Aimo: Kuvataiteilija suomalaisessa yhteiskunnassa ennen itsenäisyyden aikaa.
Taidehalli 74. Helsinki 1974, 4–14.
Valkonen, Olli: Läpimurto Suomessa. Modernin läpimurto. Pohjoismaiden maalaustaide 1910–1920. Uddevalla 1989, 35–41.
Vihanta, Ulla: Ateneumin kokoelmista. Suomalaista maalaustaidetta itsenäisyyden ajan ensimmäisiltä vuosikymmeniltä. Pohjantähden alla. Suomalaista maalaustaidetta Ateneumin kokoelmista 1917–1940. Suomen taiteen museo Ateneum. Helsinki–Vammala 1993, 10–34.

Retretti: Beyond Reality - The Fairy Tale World of Rudolf Koivu (official introduction)

Retretti Art Center, Punkaharju, 9 June 2012 – 28 August 2012. Viewed on Friday 13 July, 2012

Retretti: "This summer, the enchanting fairy tale world of the great Finnish artist Rudolf Koivu (1890-1946) can be discovered at Retretti. The master of illustrative art and author of fairy tales created magical realities with his pictures that continue to fascinate children and the young at heart."

"Contemporary artist Alexander Reichstein entered Koivu's fantasy world and brings it to Retretti this summer for everyone to enjoy. The princesses, knights, damsels, fairies, forest folk, trolls and sea creatures created by Koivu, and loved by everyone, charm visitors with their delicacy and lead them to an alternative world of stories and fairy tales." (Retretti)

Retretti: Cave Allegories – Artist Presentations (official information)

Retretti Art Center 2012, artists on display in the Cave Allegories exhibition:

Adel Abidin
1973 Baghdad, Iraq
Lives and works in Helsinki

Iraqi-born Adel Abidin often deals in his works with questions concerning cultural alienation and marginalization through sharp-sighted irony and sarcasm. Behind the animation Psyché, exploring the power of sexuality, is a play by the same title, written by Molière (1622-1673), the grand master of western comedy writing. Two paths are projected on opposing walls in the cave, one for women and the other for men. On the paths Molière’s characters, L’Amour and Psyché, perform their lines crawling on all fours; each with a plastic replica of the genitalia of the opposite sex dangling in front of them, attached to the character’s waist. The characters seem to only become aware of each other’s presence when their paths cross.

Eija-Liisa Ahtila
1959 Hämeenlinna
Lives and works in Helsinki

Eija-Liisa Ahtila is known for her large-scale video installations that create, through their layered pacing of time and space, multifaceted experiences of the basic questions of human existence. Fishermen is the first work in the series of five single channel video installations called Études. They explore story elements in a short form, each having a special approach related to moving image. Fishermen condenses into a metaphor of continuous competition – defiance of hardships and trials, dreams and hopes of a better life. The meaning levels of universal and personal merge in the fishermen of a poor coastal region in West Africa. They can be interpreted as the ever-growing stream of illegal immigrants trying to make their way to Europe – immigrants, for whom hunger, wars or natural disasters do not warrant even the status of refugee. The global economic imbalance creates a state of seafaring where merciless waves time after time again capsize the boats and cast the fishing equipment into the sea.

Kari Cavén
1954 Savonlinna
Lives and works in Helsinki

Kari Cavén assembles his works from materials and manufactured products he finds and collects himself. Cavén, who initially studied to become a painter, started to create object collages in the mid-1980s, when, as he himself says, he was bitten by the “bug of collecting”. His works are a celebration of recycling: His studio is filled with various potential materials that when the time is ripe gain new meanings in new contexts. Cavén’s characteristic humor and playful inventiveness extend to the titles, which are essential elements of his works. The references they contain offer new significances to the works, through which the artist perceptively comments on the surrounding world. His work Rescue Ready presents life rings to the viewers.

Cleaning Women
Founded 1996
CW01 (Risto Puurunen, 1972 Kuopio), CW03 (Timo Kinnunen, 1977 Heinävesi) ja CW04 (Tero Vänttinen, 1977 Heinävesi)

Cleaning Women is a band that uses home-made instruments and is known for its music videos and musical accompaniments to silent movies. The best known among the latter are the compositions Aelita – The Queen of Mars for a Soviet film by the same title and Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin. A surrealist soundscape combining sound, light and movements, respectful to the tradition of montage, is constructed into the Retretti caves from a video and the Power Plant scale model featured in it. Its different components collide like the key words of the work Q4, The Last Quarter Year: upswing, clearcutting, Fukushima, outsourcing, fast loan, continuous growth, tomato, WTO, economic liberalism, nuclear power plant, palm diesel, light bulb conspiracy, neocolonialism, uranium mine, sweatshop, forced consumption, final profit warning.

Veli Granö
1960, Kajaani
Lives and works in Porvoo

Veli Granö is a visual artist and filmmaker who is also known for introducing the Finnish ITE/DIY art scene to wider audiences. Serving as subjects of Granö’s works are often real people who share an interest in unknown realities and the need to create their own, alternative worlds. Changing one’s course of life in socially closely controlled small communities has meant standing out from others, or even exclusion. The subject of The Prophet is poet-augur Markku Mäkinen whose life was changed by a thunderbolt already as a child. According to Mäkinen, his world opened up and he started to see things others could not see. He felt a compelling need to write poems and soon came to see the prophecy they contained: The human race will sooner or later be forced to choose between materiality and spirituality – for the benefit of the latter.

Ilmari Gryta
1979 Krasnik Lubelsk, Poland
Lives and works in Riihimäki

Ilmari Gryta’s Pillars of the World refers to the need of humans to create theories and measurement systems for understanding life and its laws of order. Columns or pillars are iconic artifacts common to most human cultures, which besides their role of structural support are often also charged with strong symbolic relevance. Gryta’s massive and stately row of pillars can be interpreted as a metaphor for human knowledge and civilization, or for our material culture. Foremost, it reminds of the fragility of our cultural foundation. The inherent, immaterial and constantly changing stream of light that dominates the pillars is impossible to control or predict. Just like in the endless cycle of life it is impossible to determine the beginning or the end.

Tommi Grönlund & Petteri Nisunen
1967 Turku - 1962 Vantaa
Live and work in Helsinki

The sculptural installations of Tommi Grönlund and Petteri Nisunen, who both initially studied to become architects, make use of spaces, environments and physical phenomena. The minimalist simulations detached from nature can gain their content from for example light, sound, movement, vibration, magnetism, mechanics or gravity. This abundance is consolidated into visually minimal works that appeal to the different senses, as if to reveal the mechanics and operational conditions of various phenomena occurring in the given space or environment. The insights they contain, spiked with dry humor, offer clues for interpreting the works but leave the viewers to create their own associations.

Bo Haglund
1963 Porvoo
Lives and works in Helsinki

Bo Haglund’s work as an artist branches out from various forms of visual art to stage design for theatre and cinema, industrial design and graphic design. Haglund studies perceptively and often through a black sense of humor the laws of turbulence both in the cycle of nature and in social relationships. To help him in this task of observing the surrounding world and studying social codes, he has created an alter ego called Stubbhuvu (Stumphead) familiar from his Kodaren cartoon series. When Stumphead, who lives deep in a Finnish forest, is driven out of his isolation by loneliness, sadness and existential pain, he drifts in the chaotic world outside into the role of a scapegoat, a target of all kinds of pestering and ridicule.

Sasha Huber
1975 Uster, Sveitsi / Switzerland
Lives and works in Helsinki

Sasha Huber’s Swiss-Haitian background has served as a starting point for her series of works connected with a search for her own roots. The history of colonialism have also led her on the trail of one of the most prominent natural scientists of the mid-19th century, Louis Agassiz. Huber has in her intervention renamed the mountain peak named after this “discoverer” of ice ages as Rentyhorn, after Renty, a woman slave Agassiz photographed as part of his research on races. Louis Who? shows how self-evident racial inequality was among the leading scientists of the 19th century. The video was filmed at the Louis Agassiz Square located in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The artist rides in, like a messenger from the past, to tell the local people what everybody should know about Louis Agassiz: Researcher, natural scientist, glaciologist, influential racist, pioneering apartheid theorist…

IC-98
Founded 1998 (Patrik Söderlund, 1974 Turku ja / and Visa Suonpää, 1968 Turku)
Live and work in Turku

IC-98 is a team of two artists that defines as its goal a space of free thought and as its interests “events that never took place, fantastic connections between things, heresies and pure systems of thought, the presence of history in everyday life, the body politic, social formations and architectural constructions, control mechanisms and techniques of escaping them.” The Descent, a vortex-like dive into the effects of social inequality on an individual, from the animation series Theses on the Body Politic, pays homage to Pentti Haanpää’s book “Isännät ja isäntien varjot” (Lords of the House and Their Shadows) set in rural Finland during the 1930s recession. Colony, in turn, depicts an isolated island in the middle of the sea circled by birds foraging for eggs. The landscape is viewed from high above the birds, amidst the clouds.

Elina Juopperi
1975 Oulu
Lives and works in Tornio

Elina Juopperi wanted to photograph all the people who still speak the Inari Sámi language, with the purpose of reminding us that every two weeks a language – the cornerstone of culture and identity – becomes extinct in the world. If the language disappears, not much is left of a culture. At the same time, valuable pieces of cultural heritage, entire worldviews, disappear. The endangered languages in Finland are Inari Sámi and Skolt Sámi. Through the mirror glass of the VIP seats of the Kalliosali Concert Hall in Retretti visitors can see three small cardboard boxes containing the pictures of the 243 speakers of Inari Sámi whom the artist was able to reach for photographing and interviewing. There are thirty persons missing from her collection. Through headphones the vistors can hear sound samples of this language spoken around Lake Inari, based on numerous inflections and a complex nominative and verb morphology.

Pekka Jylhä
1955 Toholampi
Lives and works in Espoo

Pekka Jylhä is transforming the concept of sculpture by creating illusions with unusual materials and stuffed animals, electricity and mechanical devices, fire and water, light, shadows and reflections. The titles of his works often lead to associations on the crash course between humans and nature. Crystal serves as an analogy of the superficial and glittering times we live in. The stuffed animals remind us that somebody will have to pay a steep price for the shortsighted need of humans to exploit and destroy nature. Scapegoat refers to an old myth: In it a stuffed goat is closed off outside under a heavy, black sack of sins to cleanse the atmosphere caused by a social trauma. It Is Not Too Late features ten stuffed hares holding onto each other’s paws in a circle, forging hope.

Tellervo Kalleinen & Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen
1975 Lohja - 1971 Dresden, Saksassa / Germany
Live and work in Helsinki

Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen interact reciprocally with different groups and people in their community-based works. They send out invitations, which through the collective processes give birth to new and unpredictable energy in the form of chain reactions. The Birmingham Complaints Choir started off a worldwide movement of complaints choirs in 2005, which through workshops led by the artists or through the instructions available on the Internet has produced hundreds of complaints choirs. The global spreading of the choirs can also be followed on the website www.complaintschoir.org. The therapeutic process of preparing for the choirs, shared by all the participants, is an outlet of release and healing. People’s sources of complaint in daily life are surprisingly similar all over the world. The singing turns them into shared joy and laughter.

Otto Karvonen
1975 Helsinki
Lives and works in Helsinki

Otto Karvonen is known for his temporary sculptures and interventions created into public spaces. In them he makes use of the spatial, social and political dimensions of the given environments. He started developing his Alien Palace Birdhouse Collection from a work that spread into an urban environment in Amsterdam in 2010.
The birdhouses are architecturally inspired by the over 200 detention centers for immigrants where EU member states house people arriving from outside the region with no papers to await for their cases to be dealt with. The birdhouses offer excellent nesting conditions for the occasional winged visitors. They are made of weatherproof and durable material, such as stainless steel, cement fiberboard, aluminum and brick.

Antti Laitinen
1975 Raahe
Lives and works in Somero

Antti Laitinen offers himself up as the “basic material” of his works, repeatedly challenging and testing his mental and physical limits and endurance. His projects are based on performance-like events that continue their lives documented in different forms and in new contexts of meaning. The intertwining of absurd and seemingly insignificant things with the human aspiration to find one’s own place and attain independence leads the viewer to existentially reflect on the purpose of life. Bark Boat, also, is based on his childhood games and dreams of freedom. Crossing the Gulf of Finland from southern Finland to the Estonian coast took the artist nearly 20 hours in the 3-meter bark boat he had built – thanks to good weather.

Tea Mäkipää
1973 Lahti
Lives and works in Weimar, Germany

Tea Mäkipää’s Oilissimo is a metaphor for the worldwide concern over serious environmental problems. The most dangerous of the environmental disasters is the creeping development as a result of which humankind will run out of space, fresh water and clean air due to our own actions and changing needs. Logically this path of development means that we would need a new Planet Earth to be able to “develop” and expand our functioning as a species in its present form. In the microcosmos of Oilissimo, the ocean level has risen due to global warming to an extent that the water has already started overflowing. The structures are still functioning and the surface glimmers, but oil, the staple of wealth, has contaminated the living beings – the plants and birds. The conditions and configurations of existence have crucially changed.

Ville Ranta
1978 Oulu
Lives and works in Oulu

In Ville Ranta’s layered comic art direct and minimalist narrative style and laid-back visual expression strike at the core of our fragmented times. In Paradise he parodies the ambivalence of existence through the Christian story of creation: What are the chances of free will in a world that God Almighty has created to his liking? God bears resemblance to the humanlike gods of ancient Greek mythology, who are also capable of hatred, revenge and mockery. But Adam and Eve, cast into the world and obsessed with sexual desire, must however fear and respect their creator in their endless guilt over sin. Adam summarizes the basic human experience of life in these words: “It’s hard to know when to think for yourself, and when not to.” God doesn’t have it easy, either, because due to the wayward behavior of humans he is unable to control his works of creation.

Anni Rapinoja
1949 Hailuoto, Oulu
Lives and works in Hailuoto, Oulu

Studies in geography and botany have given Anni Rapinoja a solid foundation for addressing questions of biodiversity and the vulnerability of nature. For her natural materials are fellow workers for whom she in turn serves as a random assistant in nature’s processes of change where the basic elements – air, sun, wind and water – have first say. As an environmental activist, the artist trusts in the metaphoric implications of her works: “What we do to nature, we do to ourselves.” In the caves the dried flowers of a greenhouse cast as they sway – assisted by aids controlled by a human being – elusive shadows. In a small roofless glass case in the etrance hall Paradise Experiment tests with the help of plants raised from seeds and seedlings and forces of nature the prospects of the birth of a miniature paradise.

Seppo Renvall
1963 Helsinki
Lives and works in Helsinki

Seppo Renvall’s black and white experimental films, videos and photographs, as well as his performance-like happenings, make use of cinematic elements, music and sound, repetition and rhythm. Planet Earth – Encyclopedia is based on the illustrations of a 12-part book series from 1919. The soundtrack is A Gruesome Tale, a piece of score music composed by J.S. Zamecnik around the same time and here performed by Aslak Christiansson. In the rapidly paced juxtapositions of images, collating landscapes with indigenous people or urban images with natural wonders in different parts of the world, the montage-like randomness highlights the cultural hierarchies and classifications of the early 20th century.

Paavo Räbinä
1965 Kuopio
Lives and works in Bryssels

Paavo Räbina finds the themes for his works in historical and literary sources as well as social structures and cultural injustices. He has derived material for his works from Brecht’s and Shakespeare’s plays or from the Finnish civil war and the related consequences of social inequality. Regardless of the historical undertones, Räbinä’s works are always very topical. This topicality is also manifested in his emotionally powerful black and white video installation Remember Us from 1999, extending from the background of marginalization caused by poverty. The portrayal of a bread line in the Kallio district of Helsinki is accompanied by a beautiful libretto from Henry Purcell’s opera Dido and Aenas from 1689, performed by soprano Jaana Mäntynen. The organs of the Meilahti church in Helsinki highlight the principal message of the installation: The importance of human dignity.

Emma Rönnholm
1984 Turku
Lives and works in Helsinki

Emma Rönnholm’s Urban Caravan is a revolving installation starring used and discarded plastic products – jars, bottles and packages – manifesting their own lightness and practicality. In deeper reflection, this joyous and colorful carousel turns however into a symbol of our culture of disposable products: After long processes of product development, manufacturing and marketing, the contents of the plastic containers are consumed in just a few moments. Today a majority of all household waste comes from packaging and other material with the sole purpose of containing, transporting or hiding something else. Under present circumstances, this enormous mass of material isn’t even recycled. Light plastic is one of the most rapidly accumulating types of problem waste, producing the heaviest burden on the environment.

Kaija Saariaho
1952 Helsinki
Lives and works in Paris, France

Kaija Saariaho’s compositions awake strong visual associations in their listeners, which is why they are often assessed in visual terms. Drawing sketches plays an important part in her process of composing music. Nox Borealis, one of collaborative visual music installations by Kaija Saariaho and Jean-Babtiste Barrière, combines two different sonic sources: Kaija Saariaho’s composition Lichtbogen (Arches of Light) and the soundscapes of aurora borealis recorded by Unto K. Laine, professor at the Helsinki University of Technology. Lichtbogen is based on the experience of nature produced by aurora borealis when the northern Finnish winter sky is plowed by movements of light and sound. Visualized by Jean-Babtiste Barrière, Nox Borealis creates a meditative space for calming down and concentrating.

Charles Sandison
1969 Glasgov, Scotland, Great-Britain
Lives and works in Tampere

Charles Sandison creates computer-programmed light installations, made up of words, symbols and movements, which only when projected on different architectural spaces, surfaces and contexts, produce whole artworks based on the specific semantic meanings. The different elements and details influence each other and live in continuous interaction with each other. The very randomness inherent to the works opens up infinite possibilities for them. Red and White can be perceived as a modern-day living cave painting in the deepest cavern of the Retretti caves. It can also be historically associated with the tragedy of Finnish society embarking on independence, the traumas of which we are still today unraveling. What kind of alternative paths of development could there have been that would have allowed us to avoid the pain and losses?

Pilvi Takala
1981 Helsnki
Lives and works in Istanbul, Turkey

Pilvi Takala’s works are documented performances and situation-based interventions, which in a subtle way reveal and question the social norms and rules that guide our actions.     She does this by telling only part of a story and leaving the viewers to fill in the rest through their own associations. Real Snow White focuses on the logic of a “real character” in relation to the strict rules of Disneyland Paris: The artist, a real admirer of Snow White, cannot, based on general, unwritten rules, be allowed to enter the amusement park dressed as Snow White. Through questioning and laughing at herself and others, the artist reveals models of control and standardizing which produce consequences at the interface of public and private that seem absurd.

Tommi Toija
1974 Lapua
Lives and works in Helsinki

Tommi Toija’s small, humanlike ceramic figures are like talismans that with their reciprocal example create self-understanding in the viewer. The works are born from red clay, through firing and treating them afterwards with various techniques. They often get paint on their surface or become joined with other elements. In their repetition and thematic continuum they together form a miniature world where a full range of human emotions is reflected. At their most typical, Toija’s clay figures, lonely and sad, seem to be viewing the world they have ended up in and its norms which they have to learn in wide-eyed bewilderment. King of the Hill keeps blowing glass bubbles around him in his own selfish innocence, as if imitating a human individual convinced of his own omnipotence.

Pauliina Turakka-Purhonen
1971 Haapavesi
Lives and works in Helsinki
The topics of Pauliina Turakka-Purhonen’s paintings, sketches and works created with a particular sewing technique deal with the social relationships between people. Her textile works are inspired by the wooden sculptures in the medieval churches of the Åland Islands environment where she grew up. They both are like three-dimensional paintings emphasizing corporeality, where the whole is made up different parts, colors and other details. In Turakka-Purhonen’s works Christian imagery gets new interpretations through humor, which often question and mix gender roles, and where the sacred and the everyday are interlinked in the cycle of life. The works gain a whole other level from their elements that could be perceived as feminine, from the virtuosity of creating textile art to mundane pins and yarn.

Salla Tykkä
1973 Helsinki
Lives and works in Helsinki

The captivating atmospheres of Salla Tykkä’s video works and photographs waver somewhere between the real and the unreal. The works are studies of identity, which often focus on the power relationships between the sexes, cultural stereotypes and the structures that uphold them. Containing references to the avant-garde art of the early 20th century, the self-portraying study, Portrait, consisting nine black and white photographs, is based on photo collages that the artist has scanned and printed out with the help of modern technology. Through its emphasis on psychological state and attitude the series focuses on the frailness and fragility of the human soul and mind. It refuses however to remain as a mere object, but looks firmly back and sort of demands to change places with the viewer.

Roi Vaara
1953 Moss, Norja / Norway
Lives in Helsinki

Roi Vaara’s performances and interventions and their video documentations often deal with social and ecological themes. The video Snow Business parodies the economic performance goals of our times. In it the artist has become an entrepreneur who loads and transports raw material from the south to a rural market in Central Finland. But the unwavering camera and its direct shots mercilessly reveal that innovative products are hard to sell. Despite his marketing efforts, the Finnish dark and gray winter weather does not help to convince of the earning logic of snowball business. Leg Carrying Introductions offers analogies to the spectacles and markets of the art world where objects of art may require massive arrangements, transportation needs and various  structures. In this work only the performance is on sale and the material travels easily along with the artist.

Elina Vainio
1981 Jyväskylä
Lives and works in Helsinki

Elina Vainio’s works are often serial-like entities or spatial installations that study reality as a construction subjected to different influences. Planet Earth Advertisements is an installation made up of advertisement photos discovered by the artist, showing how strongly the images embedded in our minds since the lunar landing of Apollo 17 have remained as part of our global, collective memory. Even though real-time information on the condition and events of our planet keeps increasing all the time, the image of the globe is reproduced in its same appearance in the marketing of a widest range of companies, products and services. The image sells the best when viewed from space, as an easily identifiable and comprehensible blue ball glowing in the dark.