25 November 2011 00:00
The title of the project Blindfold arises from a series of images that are topical for the artist Ulla Karttunen at the moment and will be shown at the planned exhibition. More general issues will be discussed at the symposium accompanying the exhibition Censorship, Art and Voluntary Blindness. Apart from the usual meaning of the word “blindfold” (as defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary), the term symbolises everything that veils mental and physical seeing. The term is also connected with justice: the goddess of justice, Justitia, has a blindfold as a symbol of the ideal objectivity of the law. The blindfold itself is a cliché accessory for sexual activities (as advertised by the popular media).
The Finnish artist Ulla Karttunen actively entered the artistic world at the beginning of the 1990s. After having graduated in the arts, she now works as a visual and multimedia artist, art critic, curator, designer and writer. Besides all of the above, she is also active in the field of theoretical research, with an emphasis on the relationship between art and reality. In 1997, Karttunen established the Bedroom Gallery Bathroom Gallery (Paris, Helsinki), while between 1999 and 2009, she developed her experimental artistic project “Boudoir Rouge” in a private apartment in Paris.
What we are dealing here with is a more pronounced activist orientation within contemporary visual and multimedia artistic practices (with an emphasis on computer graphics and design), and also critical thought. We are talking about performative processuality, where the subjective positions of both “author” and audience are tested again and again (work/life-in-progress), instead of being subordinated to the “aesthetic transcendence”.
Ulla Karttunen accosts us with the failed critical confrontation between art and reality and so constantly challenges the boundary between the theoretical and the practical, within her own art works as well. The key factor of her work is the questioning of the fetishisation of art subjects/objects, which become goods with a value at the art market, and the questioning of contemporary life, which is becoming a form of commodity itself. Related to this issue is the cliché of the female image within the mass media, which the artist explores in her series of digitally and hand processed images – icons from the popular media.
In the past few years, Ulla Karttunen has intensively devoted her time and effort into creating digital icons. Typical for her images are copying and quoting techniques, appropriations and the blurring of recognisable identities of the depicted female figures. The icons are created by computer-generated images, digital paste-ups and mixed techniques (manual interventions into digital pictures). Besides digitally formed paste-ups of bigger as well as medium-sized images (from the series Red, Black Madonna, The Architecture of Justice), this exhibition brings together a collection of smaller icons in period frames, which otherwise we might find framing old portraits (Blindfold).
Ulla Karttunen confronts the concept of an icon while using contemporary advertising strategies and the stated culture of stars and worship of celebrities. In this way, she exposes the function of icons ruling within the mass media.
In the background of Ulla Karttunen’s icons lies a censorship incident relating to her work Virgin-Whore Church in the Kluuvi Gallery of the Helsinki City Art Museum in 2008. At that time, the media demanded that the celebrities, when processed by art(ist), have to be unrecognisably masked. This consequently means that a social critique of marketing strategies is acceptable in art only as masked, blinded and turned down. Female stars have, with the artistic intervention of Karttunen, become that which they never wanted to be: unrecognisable saints. Although the images show unearthly female beings, the source and inspiration for them are real market structures with their media idols. They serve as a real foundation for a series of images, which lose their original meaning and gain a new one during the paste-up processes. The image of women on the pictures moves away from a symbol for a pantheon of stars, whose existence is conditional upon the supremacy of the capitalist market and is ensured by appearance in the media. Women from the icons look like heralds of a liberated female power in yet undiscovered worlds of sensual eroticism, where the latter is indiscernible from the vast mental and intelligible landscapes of integral sovereign female subjectivity. Visual and discursive strategies, used by Ulla Karttunen in her works, thus join those appeals in art that call for the establishment of a critical corpus in the present-day topical social reality that is caught in a vicious circle of hyper-production, consumption and destruction.
(From the accompanying text of Dr. Mojca Puncer)
ULLA KARTTUNEN is a visual artist and theorist based in Helsinki, Finland. She has made digital icons, installations, performances, media works and conceptual projects. She has called her method of working reality art, an approximation of reality, but reality in its most mysterious aspects. Her work-in-progress series of digital icons Red, Black Madonna and Blindfold depict unknown saints. The digital sources of icons come from media junk, and the works have also been painted manually with banal materials such as nail polish, jam, lip gloss or ketchup. One main theme in the works is the critique of dualist thought, which divides the sensual and sacred, flesh and spirit. As a critic and theorist, she has written hundreds of articles, especially about the mingling borders between art and reality. Her projects include the retrospective exhibition The Divine: Sanctified Women from a Dark Planet in the Joensuu Art Museum (2011); the solo exhibition Ecstatic Women in the Kluuvi Gallery of the Helsinki City Art Museum (2008), which included the work Virgin-Whore Church; various other exhibitions, including at Forum Box, Valssaamo Cable Factory, Gallery Myymälä2, Haihara Art Center, Rauma Art Museum, Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum, and the Crypt of the Helsinki City Cathedral, as well as Bedroom Gallery Bathroom Gallery, which started as an artist-run activity by a nomad group in her private bedroom in Paris; the performance Stoning to Death (2009), where the audience was given the opportunity to eliminate the immoral artist; and the books L’Amour et la Mort (2009) and Ulla Karttunen: A Modern Mystic (2011).
Name of the event: Blindofold (exhibition)
When it took place:
The opening: 25th November 2011 at 8pm
Exhibition was open since 26th November until 9th november 2011
Location of the exhibition: Alkatraz Gallery
Websites: Galerija Alkatraz, www.project-blindfold.net
Authors of event:
KUD Mreža / Alkatraz Gallery, Horizonti – Institute for Art, Culture, Science and Education, SRC SASA, Maska Ljubljana, Cankarjev dom, Publishing Society ZAK
Artist: Ulla Kartunnen
Camera: Ana Grobler
Editing: Ana Grobler