Wednesday, October 02, 2002

F2F ~ Fresh From Finland ~ by Courtney Pulitzer

Swans, Finlandia, Karielus, Saunas and Reindeer Steaks. These are just a few of the traditional high-end experiences and products we enjoy from Finland. And, like its other Northern neighbors, cutting-edge, modern design and innovation in art and technology is another area where Finland has been, and continues to excel.

I had the distinct pleasure of being invited to the F2F New Media Art From Finland exhibit opening on Wednesday, October 2nd at the Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries in Parsons School of Design. F2F is produced by the Finnish Foundation for the Visual Arts in collaboration with the Embassy of Finland, Washington DC and this private reception was hosted by the Consul General of Finland Jukka Leino and Mrs. Eva Leino. There were many other illustrious attendees as well…

I first chatted with Deputy Consul General Jari Sinkari, who introduced me to Finnish Foundation for the Visual Arts, Parsons instructor and exhibition co-curator Marko Tandefelt (the other curator is in collaboration with Bryn Jayes). He explained who some of the artists were and then introduced me to the exhibition architect and designer for the visual look of F2F, Ilkka Suppanen, who is a famous industrial designer. (www.suppanen.com). Julia Kauste, executive director of the Finnish Foundation for the Visual Arts and exhibition producer also conveyed excitement about this highly innovative technical and artistic event.

My favorite part was the very fact that the exhibits evolved with each exhibition. Like true technology (hardware and software) with its various releases, the artists created their pieces and then tweaked them, changed them, "released" a new version for each new showing. Since the first show in Los Angeles in September 2000 the pieces have exhibited seven times. What was also refreshing was that I could see real-world applications for the technology or the issues the piece was addressing.

As the website states: "The exhibition explores three specific themes - the border between digital and analog expression; social interaction in the digital era; and new digital worlds."

 Hanna Haaslahti's piece was projected on the far wall as you came in. Her use of the traditional "magic lantern" of battlefield scenes, interposed with a flatbed scanner that scanned your face as you looked at the scene, was projected on a far wall and reflects and questions depictions of violence in our culture.

In the room facing the street, Tuomo Tammenpรครค showed me his branding exhibit. NEED, an exploration of branding without an actual product was an exercise in "pure, beautiful nothingness." To explore how desire is built up in a product, he dropped the product but created a major marketing campaign, website and physical exhibit to play with consumer desire for products. He's a "happy consumer" and doesn't have any moral statements, but if you look at the site, http://www.needweb.org and register, provide your personal data, collect all seven cards you'll get access to a special VIP lounge and get free products. Guess what? It's just like Shakespeare and Seinfeld--it's much ado about nothing! And that's the point.

Laura Beloff and Maex Decker created HAME (a dress), a 3D piece that explored extreme behaviors, such as hysteria and boredom, that are traditionally perceived as mental states that are considered intrinsic in women and that are reflected upon and seen in a person's behavior. With a video screen showing projections of women in different dress, users can interact with the piece by wearing one of three jackets that compose a crucial part of the work. Each one of these jackets has a different function in the piece; forward, rewind and repeat. Everything (video, movements in the clips, sound, jacket functions) are all "non-naturalistic and machine-like; segmented, timed and rhythmic." While the topic of this installation is not technology, the piece is and functions like a machine--"a machine that observes and sends signals and data to other networked machines in the installation!"

Beginning with the idea of tamagotchi for restless adults, Teijo Pellinen created his video project, Aquarium, so insomniacs could watch and interact with two people on TV. Using your controls and calling in you could watch the other late-night dwellers eat, drink, dream or party. It originally aired on Finnish television for one month. Competing with late-night shopping shows and infomercials, this show intended to give viewers and opportunity to interact with other human characters who were also awake at night. Like the tamagotchi, you could care for and sympathize with the characters. The piece explores the possibilities of using interactive television to break the sense of social isolation experienced by people who are awake at night.

Bringing interactivity to another 3D level was Juha Huuskonen, whose piece, Mirror ++, got you really involved. Standing in the exhibition space and facing a video camera, your image was fragmented into a kaleidoscope image. Each movement you made changed the kaleidoscope image. Juha is also a well-known programmer and artist--learn more at: http://juhuu.nu and http://katastro.fi/!

See all the pictures at: http://cyberscene.fotki.com/2002/