Kristina Sedlerova Villanen, PASSENGER XXI, 2019/2023. Kuva: Aukusti Heinonen

Marjatta Oja, Kristina Sedlerova Villanen Passenger Elevator


In their exhibition at Galleria Sculptor, Marjatta Oja and Kristina Sedlerova Villanen explore the theme of technology and its presence in daily life. As artists they share a common ground in ecologically critical works, where matter, media and human scale come intuitively together. Before their new collaboration, approximately a decade, ago Oja and Sedlerova Villanen met in the Academy of Fine Arts Helsinki as a teacher and a student. In this exhibition, as colleagues, they navigate dialogically towards new approaches reviewing the structures and methods in their practices.

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A dialogue between the artists, June 2023:

Kristina Sedlerova Villanen: In the winter of 2022, we met on a bright and frosty day in Kalasatama. After the first cup of coffee, I showed you the documentation of my artwork – a video of my sleeping displayed on a TV screen leaning onto the wall behind a huge chest freezer. We also talked about my new work experience as a part-time art educator and you moving to the Kalasatama area of Helsinki. During the second cup of coffee, it dawned on me that we could have a joint exhibition.

Marjatta Oja: You had placed a video screen behind a freezer, and it did raise many thoughts. What and how can a viewer see the image, and what does the movement mean to the viewer when they have to watch the ’hidden’ screen with a partly sleeping person laying in the image? What kind of associations rise to the conscious part of the mind? All this got my imagination running, and I started to think about other solutions where the video screen is hidden or in contact with everyday surroundings. And a clear question that I had pondered earlier, came to me again: what is behind the objects of our everyday life? The idea of making an exhibition together started to sound quite realistic after that.

After the first plan, how have the ideas developed, and to which direction?

K: For the upcoming Passenger Elevator show, I am working on a bit different setup, allocating the TV screen behind a pair of vertical gray freezers reminiscent of their shape to an elevator. Since we agreed on the elevator as the theme for our exhibition, the vertical freezers fit well into the context.

Lately, my workflow has been affected by my decision to work lighter: I executed a large-scale installation with a minimum amount of materials in Antwerp Kunsthalle Chapel last year. There, I tested how the notion of sound could be physically detached from the video it belonged to. I displayed both the sound and the moving image simultaneously in the opposite corners of the space demonstratively leaving the long connecting wire visible on the wall. From this gesture, the thematics of source and currency came up, propelling the act further.

I am curious to know more about how you relate to the humans and objects in your practice. Do they transform when grasped through the lens? How do the aspect of time, concepts of documentation and fiction relate to your work, Marjatta?

M: Shooting something through the lens has become natural for me, as for the most people. I don’t use camera in my everyday life anymore, but I have kept working with it as a part of my professional work. When shooting, I give special attention to the subject or the theme I choose. This way, I want to open to the spectator the remarks the work refers to. Therefore, fiction or documentation are tools between me and a viewer, nothing more. Time, instead, became a special subject in the Passenger Elevator exhibition process. And I have to say, that is for the very first time – even if it has been suggested to me before. I feel that media has affected our sense of the moment, the very moment when something really happens. We are more unsure than ever, and we must repeat our message to get it through. Or we must repeat acts to make sure they’re done. When it comes to emails, for example, one has to check whether the message has reached its target – and has it been answered. The time and distance between different kinds of everyday things influencing our lives has become important.

I wonder what the “real” moment of reaching something or somebody is, and will I get used to the new kind of patience that is needed for it.

How about you – what kinds of things or objects influence your everyday life?

K: I feel like I, more or less, distill small particles from the ocean of impulses and ever-changing situations, landscapes and atmospheres. My focus constantly drifts from one thing to another even when building something solid, that may not be related to the focal point of the exact moment. While I often produce minimalistic works from heavy and rigid materials, my biggest influences might come from the transience of flesh or of a flower. I am very sensitive to the surroundings and ambience of the space, so I prefer to work in situ whenever possible.

What do you think about the transmission of the information and the electricity-dependent behavior of our contemporary society, which is a sort of an addiction – and is there space for immaterial values? Where does the elevator take us?

M: As you ask my thoughts about those addictions of contemporary society – I think the situation is sick and dangerous. We shouldn’t get depended on things we cannot control at all. And I’m afraid that is the situation we’re in. One solution could be focusing on local activities in all life areas. If you have a problem with technical things, you should have at least somebody in your neighborhood who can help you – that you can later help with your own skills. That kind of relation also creates situations where you can discuss other things, such as immaterial energies and values. When thinking of the structures of our control-based society, I feel like I’m facing a wall. But I also see the change, which is clearly taking place all the time. People are creating new ways to survive, and I hope that we can reveal some new parameters or tools in this exhibition.

I feel like we’re creating interesting dialogue with our works. What kinds of problems does this dialogue or collaboration cause to you, Kristina?

K: For me, our dialogue is a sort of a challenge or a game – conscious risk-taking and a possibility to engage in the evolution of things and human existence. I fantasize that, via our dialogue, we could reveal the gaps and build a platform for something unknown, something in-between. I see the potential of our efforts when we bring the unlikely and controversial close to each other by overlaying different realities. I consider dialogue in art practice as a chance to see a bigger picture. Embracing the friction of constant readjustment, changes, and the slowness of the process, a respectful, open-minded method of communication has an immense capacity, also in the society at large.

M: I don’t see dialogue as a game. It’s part of my existence, which consists of periods of silence and unchallenged conditions – and of active, social life with dynamic dialogues. I search for understanding and shared experiences, also in this exhibition.

Special thanks to Art Promotion Centre Finland for a one-year artist work grant to Kristina Sedlerova Villanen and artist’s pension to Marjatta Oja, Avek for the artwork support grant to Marjatta Oja, Pro Av Saarikko for the exhibition equipment for Marjatta Oja and Kristina Sedlerova Villanen, and to Miikka Leppänen for assisting with camera for Marjatta Oja.

Image: Marjatta Oja

Above: a part of Kristina Sedlerova Villanen's work Tell me more, 2022/2023. Below: Marjatta Oja, Sound Recordings in Kalasatama, 2023. Photo: Aukusti Heinonen.
Marjatta Oja, Video Wall, 2023. Photo: Aukusti Heinonen.
Photo: Marjatta Oja.

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