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JT               Jonna Tapanainen

PA              Paweł Althamer


JT: Kansainvälinen nykytaidetapahtuma Helsinki Biennaali järjestetään tänä kesänä Helsingin Vallisaaressa. Tässä podcast-sarjassa keskustellaan tapahtuman merkityksestä sekä siitä, millaisia taide-elämyksiä on luvassa. Minä olen toimittaja Jonna Tapanainen. Helsinki Biennaaliin on kutsuttu 40 taiteilijaa ja taiteilijaryhmää. Yksi heistä on puolalainen Paweł Althamer, jonka parin vuoden takaisen näyttelyn Helsingin kaupungin taidemuseo HAMissa moni muistaa. Paweł Althamerin taidetta leimaa yhteisöllisyys ja yhteistyö. Ja Helsinki Biennaalin hän tehnyt elokuvateoksen yhteistyössä Suomenlinnan avovankilan kanssa. Althamer näyttelee yhtä seitsemästä vangista, joka pakenee kahlitusta ympäristöstään takaisin luontoon. VR-tekniikalla toteutetussa elokuvassa katsoja pääsee mukaan yhtenä vangeista. Idea on melkoinen ja halusinkin kysyä ensin Paweł Althamerilta, miten se sai alkunsa.

PA: Yeah, as you know I have (–) [0:01:03.6] (individual presentation Helsinki HAM). And during the workshops, that (-) (once) idea why not to make a workshop with different group of people, let’s say. Also it was a continuation of some of (practices), (we initiate years ago), like generally you can call it like (excluded) society or like (site-specific) groups. Just to try if art or how much art is useful to, for basic communication. Let’s say for kind of, natural (friendly) [0:01:44.4] unity in between artists, like following the year of (–) (artist). Let’s just practice when you know [laughs]. And that’s (one of idea) during this Helsinki trip was why not to make a workshop with prisoners as well. And then we, we didn’t find time I think during this first (period) working for HAM show, then when I started to talk with Pirkko.

JT: Yes, (curator) [0:02:14.9] Pirkko Siitari.

PA: What about project for this new idea, the biennial, on island. I just came back to the concept, ok, let’s do just the workshop or project together with prisoners. And that was the (-).

JT: Yes. The work Seven Prisoners has two parts, the first is a VR film where the seven inmates you being one of them escape from the prison. Could you tell our listeners what can we expect when we come to Vallisaari to experience your film?

PA: It’s a (lot to say something) because it’s like [0:02:54.4] (–).

JT: I know [laughs].

PA: [laughs] It’s like to open the door, which you (love to have fun thing) people opening them [laughs]. But of course I can say something about so called personal history of the, one of the prisoners, I mean about myself. I was first (-) practically by the Kurosawa movie Seven Samurais, and of course the same (-) [0:03:25.8] seven happy number, which is let’s say, as I remembered from childhood (good link to count), like to be lucky. And then the story about the samurais, they are not only protecting the let’s say, village (in the troubles), they’re rather bringing the light and consciousness of the power, personal power of each samurai but also the power of collectivity, how powerful is to cooperate whatever you’re doing. Why not to use the power of collectivity to escape from the prison. It’s already (-) [0:04:09.2] how to escape from the prison [laughs].

JT: And what about the virtual reality element of the work? Why did you decide to bring that element to the work? What does it bring to it?

PA: It’s bringing to (this let’s say) technology of communication I mean to the movie, (idea) kind of joy, because when I start to ask my friends and director partner Leszek Molski, do you have any visions or like let’s please, any visions you have please share with me, because I did several drawings of the kind storyboard coming from my own let’s say heritage or imagination. And Leszek (–) [0:04:55.5] I think (some days after asking) Paweł I have an idea, let’s make a VR movie, I didn’t know if (–) how to play with that (you know), I just noticed I visited several times kind of game club with my son and my daughter, playing (virtuality) like using kind of (battles) expression, and I said wow, I can play with this new technology creating let’s say by new technology old message [0:05:32.8 laughs]. And that’s what we did.

JT: Well, what do you think about the place where we are experiencing your film? This is a VR film, and then there is documentary about making of the film and so what do you think the island, Vallisaari, will bring to the experience?

PA: It’s like (-) [0:06:00.9] I imagine like why people are going to the island to experience art or (say such a), if we see that the art (to wake for) or like personal collective wake up, let’s say or illumination, using the language of (-) [laughs]. And why this island was used by military (service), it was like kind of effect of the natural (discovered) power, which soldiers used to get (the power), to control the power, to protect themselves. It’s very much (-) [0:06:42.5] the Kurosawa concept. It’s like to bring the peace to the military area, and the (peace messengers) they should be prisoners because they know about the prison very much as well freedom.

JT: You mentioned the power of collectivity and collaboration, and collaboration with people has always been at the centre of your artistic practice and during your long international career you have exhibited works that are really versatile and playful and full of surprises and your art is something that people can take part and the outcome is often open. And I think it’s very beautiful the way you lead people into making art and how you throw yourself into playing with other people too, in your works and I was wondering, has this always been a natural way to you to work as an artist?

PA: It’s (probably not) [0:07:42.2] specially transformed from the childhood when (we discover this) power of collective games. (-) very serious experience, very serious way of knowing each other, and loving each other and loving the fact that we are creators [laughs]..

JT: Yeah yeah

PA: ..(–) [os] this was a practice for creators.

JT: Yes, yes. Indeed. And it feels like it also breaks many rules we have learned about what is the right way to experience art, we have learned that art is something put on display, inside an institute and you have to be careful not to touch and keep your distance, but you encourage people to play, and like you said feel the same joy as we did as kids when we created something together. Is this important to you to break these kind of rules, maybe internalised rules we feel about art? (–) [0:08:46.7 os]..

PA: (–) maybe just a question, (-) question, why if we’re playing, if we’re really like society of people (they) playing the same game which was named (Leela) in (India) [laughs] the game of life. Why we should close the rules, we can keep the rules open, no, but that’s the idea of the game.

JT: Yeah, so Paweł Althamer, you had your solo exhibition in HAM two years ago, where you for example made art together with school children in the suburb of Jakomäki. And you talked about the importance of joy and play, but what do you get as an artist? What does it mean for you to make art and create with other people, and what kinds of reactions do you get from people you collaborate with?

PA: I think it’s like, (-) [0:09:44.4] like studying together, about studying the identity of (individuals) [laughs], the specific (phenomenon), that’s like having each one of us as individual different person, we are (such a) fantastic and perfect together as well. [laughs] We are making the reach as we can through our spectrum of individualism and autonomy. We can really make this spectrum of us, like (shining) by breaking.

JT: Yes, so what about the people you collaborate with, like these people of Suomenlinna open prison, you have worked with less advantaged people also earlier, and with people from suburbs like here in Helsinki. How do you choose the people you collaborate?

PA: Mostly (-) [0:10:50.3], but like people you’re just meeting on your trip, and sometimes you’re just asked, like people just asking you. Hey can you play something, like which is art or interview, just you know, it’s like being open, it’s (modified already) the game.

JT: Well, I read that you have a suburban identity, what does it mean, what does it mean for you as an artist, this kind of identity?

PA: Yes, (it means I’m) [0:11:25.2] I can easily jump to the centre, of the town, let’s say of society, like I have not far away to the place they’re making the (bonfire) and (-) but the same time I can really move out of this area like going to the so called (no map) district or even sometimes the dark side of the (sites).

JT: Yeah. Well we in this time of individualism and neoliberalism, where we focus on ourselves and believe in the ability of an individual, and it feels that in your art you push back this kind of development and I was wondering, do you feel the true art you encourage people to see the value of collectivity. It feels this is something that this time really needs, solidarity and collaboration.

PA: Sure. I think that was also practice from the childhood like everyone got an idea, one got idea to be a leader or like to push idea, like engine of the movement, and there are some just very curious participants, they have this power of being silent and just following [0:12:46.6 laughs] or just having fun to enjoy, (-) someone is (playing the dynamics) version of himself, then there is not like discriminating anyone actually. That’s the power of the joy, no, and (of) the childhood, (they) finding the balance in between themselves.

JT: That’s very lovely, lovely put. And finally I would like to ask that now that your work Seven Prisoners is put on display in Vallisaari, after it was postponed like everything due to the pandemic, so what kinds of reactions or emotions or thoughts do you hope to wake in people, do you think about that?

PA: Yes, it’s dedicating, dedicating my state of joy into kind of inner stability, as an even not hope, rather as a kind of (joyful) knowledge. Let’s be (-) [0:13:56.0] let’s experience that which makes such a (fun) for everyone (who has experience)..