In Saara Ekström‘s new film Amplifier the Helsinki Olympic Stadium represents a historical paradigm shift. Completed in 1938 the building outlines pure functionalist architecture and stands as a landmark for optimistic utopia and the oblivion of man’s neglect of history. Two years ago the stadium closed for a major and ongoing restoration. The abandoned athletic field with its lost purpose and empty shattered benches, provoked a chain of conflicting thoughts. The voices of history echoed inside the decayed, desolate monument.
Time inevitably moves from past to future, passing the present moment. Mankind encloses to time its marks, stains, constructions and ruins. On the verge of vast changes time acts abnormally. It leaks, folds and fractures, and allows things belonging elsewhere, to the otherworldly, to permeate itself.
As the film unravels, it shows a dancer breaking free from the stone structures. His movements intertwine dadaistic anarchy with the grotesqueness and fragility of taboo breaking butoh dance. The dancer, wearing a futuristic mask, absorbs qualities from the substance he has penetrated. Gazing through the eyeholes he reflects the wretchedness, mindlessness and resilience of existence. The past that invades the building, travels through the dancer’s body and trickles into this very moment. Its message is this: when time and place speak, listen intently. Sound is the first and the last element that moves in your body.
As a documentation of one of the most visible monuments in Helsinki the film is inevitably linked to the centenary of Finland’s independence in 2017 and the questions, we should be asking of our relationship to history in order to recognize and understand its messages.
The themes and materials of Saara Ekström’s photography and video works seem to be in a constant state of flux. With the organic and synthetic materials employed, Saara Ekström moulds universes, where visible and invisible, growth and withering, the attractive and the ugly challenge each other. Her ’aesthetics of the unpleasant’ question the cultural hierarchies of the value of materials. The themes of memory and oblivion, fiction and reality, beautiful and repulsive are entangled. History, the weight and weightlessness of time together with the ambivalent desire to both remember and forget are all at the core of Saara Ekström’s art.
Saara Ekström’s works have been shown in numerous Finnish and international group and solo exhibitions, for example in Kiasma (Helsinki), Bildmuseet (Stockholm) and Wäinö Aaltonen Museum (Turku). She has been included in the Helsinki Festival in 2005, shortlisted for both Ars Fennica and Carnagie Art Award prizes, and has received the Ducat Prize of the Finnish Art Society in 1995 as well as the Aboa Prize in 1994. Her works have been acquired to several public collections in Finland and abroad.
1–24 September 2017
Director and cinematographer: Saara Ekström, Editor: Eero Tammi, Sound design: Pietu Korhonen, Heikki Kossi / Studio H5 Film Sound Ltd, Foley artist: Heikki Kossi, Choreography and dance: Heikki Vienola, Magician: Robert Jägerhorn, Costume designer: Erika Turunen, Mask: Studio Bertjan Pot, Camera operators (dance): Saara Ekström, Teemu Lehmusruusu and Liisa Lounila, Assistant director(dance): Heikki Innanen, Foley mixer: Kari Vähäkuopus
Photographic Gallery Hippolyte
Yrjönkatu 8–10 courtyard, 00120 Helsinki, +358 9 612 33 44, www.hippolyte.fi
Opening hours: Tue–Fri 12–5 pm, Sat–Sun 12–4 pm
Photos: Photographs from the series Limbus 2011. Limbus I, II, IV. Each 100x100cm, 2011.
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