JT Jonna Tapanainen
DM Dafna Maimon
JT: Kansainvälinen nykytaidetapahtuma Helsinki Biennaali järjestetään tänä kesänä Helsingin Vallisaaressa.
Tässä podcastsarjassa 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 Dafna Mimon, Porvoossa syntynyt, ja nykyisin Berliinissä asuva taiteilija, joka luo performanssitaidetta, osallistavia tapahtumia, videoteoksia ja installaatioita. Maimonin teokset tutkivat yhteiskuntaa ja sen patriarkaalisia rakenteita liioittelun, uudelleenkontekstualisoinnin sekä usein myös absurdin huumorin keinoin.
monimutkaista suhdetta. Vallisaareen hän on luonut muun muassa videosta ja installaatiosta, koostuvan teoksen Sulamattomat – Biennaalin kävijä siirtyy ruutikellariin astuessaan toiseen ekosysteemiin, maailmasta vieraantuneen ja turtuneen Shelly-hahmon suolistoon. Haastattattelun tekohetkellä Dafna Maimon oli ollut installoimassa viikon verran teostaan Vallisaareen. Kysyinkin häneltä ensin, miltä on tuntunut päästä viimeinkin työskentelemään teoksen pariin Vallisaareen.
DM: Well it’s certainly a relief to see it come together, and, it’s been very very nice, it’s been, somehow really, therapeutic to just take this boat ride every morning and, go there and have a little walk and, (rewrite) [0:00:16.7], when it was still not so green, and within this week it’s just become completely green so we just see the whole, landscape change and, it’s been really really gorgeous.
DM: And, yeah it’s interesting I mean, I’ve never really, had a situation before where I, finish a work and then I wait a year to install it, so it’s been kind of a ‘how do I get back to it’ but actually it was very fast and very intuitive, and, the sort of, bulk of the installation came up very fast so, I’ve been really, glad to spend more time on the details and, yeah just getting back into the whole process and there’s a lot of elements to the work so, a lot of, different things that have to kind of come together and, also a lot of people that I’m working with in a way so, it’s a lot to, put together. Yeah no, it’s been- I mean it’s also the size of it was, I built something much smaller in my studio kind of, or like as a fragment of the installation and, which was mainly, I think it was only like, two or three meters long in my studio and, now it’s the, you know we’ve covered the full 18 metres of the tunnel so, essentially when you go inside of the tunnel, you enter this curtain and then you are ins- you can never see this sculpture or this environment from the outside, you are just immediately inside of it you become, immediately part of it and I kind of hadn’t realized how strong, and how visceral that feeling would be of just being swallowed inside of this environment. I mean it was what I was hoping for [laughs] but I was, sort of a year later shocked that it actually worked, that strongly.
JT: So, can you please tell a bit for listeners, where do we enter when we step into your, installation?
DM: Well basically, my idea was that you kind of, you enter into a, another kind of ecosystem so from, going from this slush island, you go into, a kind of depiction or, meditation on another kind of ecosystem which is basically the human digestive system, and so, this is a part of a, gut. So we enter the intestine of Shelley, and Shelley is a fictional character that I’ve created and that I also made a video, about where we can kind of spend some time in, Shelley’s life, and then actually go inside of her. Yeah we’re in this space that is like, here inner world, her underworld, but it’s also something that’s, just generally part of nature in a very clear, because, I mean most people now know that there is all this new science that basically, we have trillions and trillions of, bacterias [sic] and organisms, micro-organisms living inside of our guts which have, a massive effect on us.
JT: The other brain as they say.
DM: Yeah, exactly. ‘Cause it’s actually, in some people the amount of those, bacteria like if you put them together and would put them in a clump they weigh more than our brain mostly. And they have like this direct communication with our nervous system, and with our brains. And the gut itself the intestine itself has so many nerve endings that it’s like, I think it basically has like a more intricate nervous system than like a dog, you know, so it’s actually, and the intestine can also operate alone, even when the brain is not, functioning. So it’s really like, it kind of changes the whole we look at, the human, because, first of all we have to see that, there are so many, sort of other, bacterias and genes and, influencers inside our guts but there’s actually in terms of percentage of cells there’s more of that than there are human cells. So in a way when you look at a human you look at this, fleshy thing walking around, it’s actually, it’s really only part human. [laughs] And, the gut itself, the intestine itself, the digestive system it has so many nerve endings and they are in the style of (with the brain) [0:04:40.4] that it’s possible to, communicate with the brain in a way that you cannot say that there is one without the other. When I started learning about the gut and the digestive system I was really excited because I’ve, always been so much interested in this mind-body connection and I think that it’s really, a big problem in our societies that we are so mind-oriented and not body-oriented, they are together, so, the gut is a really nice, entrance point for that. Because it is so connected. You just, as soon as you start reading something about it you learn, that you have (–) [0:05:12.3 break in audio] the way you think about humans.
JT: Definitely that sounds really, intriguing I can’t wait to experience this, work you have created there. And Shelley, we get to learn Shelley as a person as well, and, I gather that she is this, very familiar, feeling type of a woman who is stressed out and, trying to find a meaning, to her life, am I right?
DM: Sort of but actually, I imagine when people say, or there was some part in the text that say that she is stressed out that actually maybe what people imagine is some kind of a person who’s, on really high gear but actually Shelley’s very, her stress translates into kind of a numbness, so we see her in this sort of inertia or apathy where all her days are the same and, she’s constantly just numbing all of her feelings and, there is this flow of, information from the outside world, particularly through this fictional news that I created in the video where, the world’s last orangutan has just died and, in the film everyone is mourning this, orangutan which also, functions as a kind of mirror of, the human itself, it’s another primate another animal just like us, very close to us and, her reaction to it is kind of like she’s just in this numbness she just eats and eats and eats and, she’s just numbing herself and, cannot really hold on to anything and, it’s just a struggle not to feel, basically. And I, think in many ways this is, what we do, maybe mine, the video is a bit of a direct, translation of that but I think in many ways this is kind of what we do with, the ways we’re dealing with life, now, we obsess about one or another thing or, we put our time on social media or buying things or whatever, you know we just do, we never get to the core of things and, we focus on symptoms and prob-, instead of looking at what the constellation of the situation is.
JT: It feels oddly timely with the pandemic as well when we have all, turned inwards and we have started to feel really anxious even though we haven’t been touched by illness or, losing loved ones or something like that but we have all suffered a lot, and felt maybe quite numb as you said and also, not been able to, handle our bodily reactions, with the mind because they have been in- there’s this imbalance I feel like, there’s memory loss and people are feeling these weird aches and, what do you feel, did the pandemic, bring some other, level to your work?
DM: Well, I mean absolutely like on a couple of ways. [laughs] One way is that, I shot this video, in the end of February 2020. And at that stage, there had been just very few reportings [sic] in Europe or it was kind of mid-February let’s say, of like ‘okay there’s some virus in, you know China’ and our reaction’s been this, similar to always like ‘oh it’s somewhere else’ you know like we just sit here comfortable. And then, the thing is that the video basically depicts this extreme alienation of this woman who is just inside, all day long, bombarded by news and all she does is, heat stuff in the mic-, heat meat in the microwave basically like, various processed meats. And, the thing is that, everyone I showed the video when I was editing it, they were like ‘oh, did you shoot this during lockdown? This is about lockdown?’ I was like ‘no, it’s actually not, I had no idea about lockdown’, but it’s kind of crazy like I almost want to put, a sign somewhere like ‘I did this before lockdown’ [laughs]. But obviously I can’t. But it’s really kind of insane how, in a way I almost felt like the video became hijacked, by this experience of everyone of being locked into their, boxes their apartments that they live in. But on another level, if there’s something, positive to take out of a pandemic like this is that I think a situation like this can really open, for, larger institutions and larger, just people in general, a way of thinking where we start to understand that, we are really not alone on this planet and for example like, this kind of virus is now basically coming into, our existence as something that’s like starting to collaborate with us maybe in a negative sense, but it is doing that you know? It is- now are all getting vaccinated and that, becomes part of us and it’s like, we really are just not alone in this way and I think that, the understanding of how, big of a part the body is and how the body translates also, all of the thing we’re going through, I think that’s really, makes it more clear so, in a way, the pandemic is just highlighting these topics that I’m interested in.
JT: Yeah and this is not the, first time you’ve been, oddly timely with your work Mutating Mary you..
DM: Yes. [laughs]
JT: ..it was really funny because in the same time that was the, historical figure, Mary Mallon, who was called the Typhoid Mary and she was, this super spreader of her time, so..
DM: Yeah she was the first known super spreader of history basically- of medical history. So it’s pretty weir- and that was the work I made before, [laughs]..
DM: ..this one so it’s, pretty weird.
JT: You have to put a sign again. This was made before the lockdown.
DM: I know I’m kind of like okay, what can I do next that I don’t.. No that’s egocentric it’s not like I’m causing these things obviously.
JT: Of course of course.
DM: But it is weird, it was very weird to be thinking a lot about this virus and, in that work I was really, thinking a lot about virus and also, social implications of how those can become, in a way, viruses in the sense that they definitely affect our bodies. The way- some things, some norms or ideas that we just sign on to, they start to also affect our bodies the way we treat them and, which really, starts also affecting us in evolution in a way how we are so, like biologically so, I mean that work was very much about, this kind of social pressure that women face to have children and I really started to think about this pressure, as a form of an infection, on its own, because people are so porous too you know, like we seep in our environment and breather it out again, we are in this kind of like flow with that in and out. If something is going on in society overall that is deemed to be, what you have to do or your kind of, destiny or something it’s very hard to, actually, do something else. Or even if you want to do the same thing it’s hard to do it, from a perspective that you actually understand what you’re doing. You know what I mean?
JT: Well, talking about body, it’s really interesting how you have dealt with the female body in your work, and also now with Shelley’s body. What do you think is this fruitful area for you to study the, I don’t know, patriarchy or the world through, female body?
DM: Somehow yeah because, there are so many, not just injustices but things that have been, kind of normalised and at the very, there are so many different areas, of oppression or these kind of, problems, but of course somehow, one of the very, I don’t know if it’s weird to say, basic ones but like one of the very rooted ones is obviously the ones between, women and men because it just, affects everyone basically. This thing, ‘cause it really affects everyone and it affects how our societies have been built and, this thing of the, separation between body and mind and also, who gets to be considered more mind and who more body, you know, is a big thing and that’s also something that pours over into the way we deal with other races or animals. So, I think for me yes absolutely, and also I am a woman I’ve been, socialised as a woman and I am that so it’s like I always draw from somehow, my own life, like all of these works are, it’s always a way for me to, understand, my own life in a way [laughs].
JT: Yeah, yeah.
DM: But then I’m just interested in what that means, on a larger term not just for me, personally.
JT: Exactly. But, like feminists say there’s always the, political, aspect of personal experiences and, when you dig into something that’s meaningful for you maybe you, can touch larger audiences.
DM: Yeah for sure, I think it’s important to talk about things that are, close to you and, that you come into touch with. It’s very easy to, say things from afar and, post things online or whatever but, and then feel happy that you did something but, honestly I feel that’s a bit bullshit like I really think people need to dig deeper, go further. Because any kind of change can only come from some form of human self-reflection. So if you don’t start there how are you gonna change anything, because the systems are what are fucked it’s not- sorry [laughs], oh my god, so we can’t just start attacking symptoms around, or thinking that if we save on orangutan that it will change everything. It’s a tempting idea, I also, often when I, especially if I come home a bit tipsy I start donating money to various, apes and stuff just to feel better, but I understand that this is just like a, plaster, or some kind of a- I don’t know it’s not like I’m trying to do work on myself that sounds a bit too, high-hatted or what you could call, but it’s more that I’m just interested in, how I tie into all of these things and how we generally form, our ways of thinking and behaving in the world and, how we’re very stuck in all these, patterns and systems that just have, been given to us and they’re really rooted and, I don’t know if it will ever change I, honestly maybe humankind will die before there will come some other, because I’m maybe not so optimistic about, the capacity of people. [laughs] We don’t think very far and fast and, we’re just, want to be satisfied quickly so, maybe I’m a bit pessimistic.
JT: Yeah, it’s hard to be optimistic during climate crisis and pandemic, I think.
DM: Yeah but even before, I think even as a child I also, you know yeah I grew up in a family where we were very different, we, part of my family is, not from Finland and stuff so, I’ve kind of always seen things like, I’ve seen a lot of judgement.
JT: Yeah, yeah. But Dafna Maimon, your art is also known for, I don’t know, it depicts, still, also the beauty of life in a way, it touches something deep in us. And I feel like you are a storyteller, but you don’t control the story that you are, able to let go of your creation and, let the visitors or the one who’s experiencing your art to form her own story. Would you say so is that important to you..?
JT: ..or, what is the beauty of letting go of the control? Because your work is very much immersive or participatory.
DM: No it’s super important because I’m only one perspective and my perspective is really biased so, if I would do things that just tell people how to think I would just be replicating some, messed up narrative. So, it’s really important to leave some kind of, openness and, experience. And I do look at my work as storytelling ‘cause I also always build characters and, worlds you know like I’ll build a character and then I’ll build also, the language that’s on the branding of the type of meat that she buys or whatever, you know like it’s I kind of really try to build these worlds, around, more like a round picture. I try to just build a kind of world that I see that can be some kind of, the way I feel how, I’m experiencing things and then I see if I can invite people in there and see what kind of, reaction that creates or, what kind of dialogue. I really like to play with the audience, I love this kind of moment where, people are a bit like, they’re like ‘oh no, what’s happening now?’ or like, ‘what the-?’, or that I love ridiculous moments where people just, cannot do anything but, kind of laugh, but not laugh out of some kind of slapstick but more maybe because it is so tragic or because it is so absurd or whatever. I like to give experiences I think, the beauty of life is that we’re here together and we can really, experience so many things by, being relational, I mean that’s also how we evolved by, being able to believe in things together, that’s what puts us apart from, any other kind of animal that we can, create fiction. And through this fiction we can actually talk on, planes that aren’t just realistic, that aren’t just ‘this happened that happened’, but it’s like, we go to some other level. But you have to leave space for other people to imagine, otherwise it’s just dictatorial.