Artists Kim Hankyul and Minna Kangasmaa are part of the second nordiSKulptur exhbition September 4-27 at Galleria Sculptorin Helsinki. The exhibition is a joint project between Nordic Culture Point and the Finnish Sculptor’s Association.
Annika Bergvik-Forsander, senior advisor for art and culture at the Nordic Culture Point interviewed the artists about their art practice and the upcoming exhibition.
Your upcoming exhibition is a joint project between the Norwegian and the Finnish Sculptor’s Associations in collaboration with Nordic Culture Point in Helsinki. What role have artist associations played in your own careers to date? Do you think that these kinds of associations are still important for artists and in what way?
Kim: Artist associations have helped me find the information necessary to continue working as an independent artist. The range of information varies from new opportunities to practical help regarding finances situation and legal conflicts. Independent artists can learn the basics early on in their careers and possibly even be protected from unfair deals by their associations.
Minna: I see the Association of Finnish Sculptors primarily as a professional community whose role is ever-changing. Its importance has repeatedly changed during my artistic career. As an artist, I’m also part of other communities through my work, but I think it’s important that artists have their own professional associations. These reflect the status of the artist and the conditions for artistic work, and they’re able to respond to broader societal changes that also filter down to the individual artist.
What is your relation to Finnish and/or Norwegian contemporary art and artists?
Kim: I hardly have any relation to Finnish contemporary art and artists. I’m looking forward to building on this.
Minna: I’m interested in the art that is being created outside of big art centres and I’m also following the field of contemporary Norwegian art. I’ve been working at the Nordic symposium in Iceland, where I got to know Norwegian artists. However, this exhibition is my first collaboration.
Can you tell us something about the project and artworks that we’ll get the chance to see in your upcoming NordiSkulptur exhibition in Galleria Sculptor, Helsinki?
Kim: My work is called ‘The Temple of the Golden Pavilion’. This work was exhibited at the Bergen Kunsthall in 2019 and is being reshaped to better fit the space of Galleria Sculptor. The work was created based on a book with the same title written by Mishima Yukio. In the book, the very delicate tension residing between one’s physical reality and the ideal image of ultimate beauty is described through a story of a young clergyman, who eventually decides to set the temple on fire where he was brought up and also supposed to live in. This book was so well written that I was almost consumed by the story. I wanted to make an adaptation of it through my own language where sound, movement, and visual elements all work together. I wanted to bring in the original pathos of the text as intact as possible, which I hope you’ll be able to experience in the gallery. Several sound sculptures will be exhibited, whereby day-to-day objects make the sound of fire.
Minna: The exhibition will display an installation, Scream of the Butterfly II. The main material of the artwork is silk, which is a hybrid resulting from the joint actions of human technology and a non-human being. Silk fibres are produced by only a few species in the insect world, one of which is the silk moth (Bombyx mori).
The work is based on the so-called butterfly effect in the chaos theory, which sees large effects stemming from small changes. Similar phenomena have been observed in our ecosystems caused by human activities. An example of this is the silk moth which has had an impact on human societies for more than 5,000 years. This impact has reached the economy, as well as politics and technology. In the long run, the silk moth could even be seen as the indirect initiator of the modern information society.
Language is an important form of human communication. Linked to this is the idea of human understanding being based on linguistic principles. The Estonian semiotician Riin Magnus writes of humans as beings that no one speaks to. Humans have become both senders and recipients of their own messages, in that humans have lost their communication lines with the non-human world – in other words, with other organisms. In my work, I have reconstructed the imaginary scream of a silk moth. I wondered how it would sound if it could scream and, in the end, I recorded my own scream. It’s a tribute to the silk moth that has been providing a continuing service to humans for thousands of years.
What was it that encouraged you to start making these artworks and what is specific to your creative working process?
Kim: I had an urge to make the sounds of fire even before reading this book. It was a timely coincidence to come across this book, through which I could expand my horizons on fire. I wanted to make the sound but did not know ‘with what’. The book gave me clues to begin with, through the rich description on the sound of fire. One vague plan and one brilliant book enabled me to make the project happen. Specific to my working process is, I think, that I am very bad at pencil drawings. I prefer to make drawings with three-dimensional objects or sound recordings.
Minna: Scream of the Butterfly II is part of the series of works Systema naturae on which I have been working since 2008. With this series, I scrutinise the interactions between humans, society and nature and their potential to generate both destruction and progress. In the 18th century, Swedish natural scientist Carl von Linné classified humans in his taxonomic system as one species in the order of primates. After the designation he added the motto “Nosce te ipsum” – “Know thyself”. Based on this motto, I create works in which empathy plays a crucial role.
Annika: We now live in uncertain times with a pandemic in addition to a climate crisis, financial cuts in culture and the arts, political agendas that threaten freedom of speech, In what way do you think these issues will affect the roles of artists in the future?
Kim: While alternative exhibition formats seem to be largely covered by the media, I can see that the financial stability of independent artists is at risk due to the coronavirus pandemic. I think artists have the perpetual task of pondering upon the condition of survival. I wonder if, after this time, the role of artists will be reconsidered as more political, with more direct relation to the living conditions of social minorities. I wonder if this is the era that people in the future will call ‘Avant-Garde’.
Minna: I think that the participation of artists in society is going to increase and multidisciplinary dialogue will gain strength. This will in turn bring the artist a wide range of roles.