bio    cv    research    teaching    contact

                  

MILITARY DISPATCH
(2016-, will be exhibited in full strenght in Helsinki City Museum 24.5.2019- and Mänttä Art Festival 16.6.2019-)


The death toll of persons involved in military operations totalled 26,662 during the conflict between Finland and the Soviet Union in 1939-1940, later known as the Winter War. A book entitled Vapautemme hinta (Engl. transl. The Price of Our Liberty) was published soon after the war in 1941, with a few column centimetres reserved for the picture and details of each deceased war hero. The register published by Finnish news magazine Suomen kuvalehti became a bestseller, with an estimated million copies sold in total. Today, over 75 years later, the book can still be found on the shelves of many Finnish homes. It provides a mesmerizing read.

The Winter War as well as the book proved that deceased soldiers are of value. While the thunder of cannons and guns still echo through the air, they are vital for strengthening a patriotic spirit and sense of community under threat. They uphold morale among troops. After the war, they have a vital role in boosting a communal spirit, shaping identity and preparing for future conflicts. They also contribute to the creation of hero myths and narration of wars.

The book paints a unified picture of Finland that redeemed its freedom through a blood offering. Although documenting the Winter War, it provides a fascinating link to the 1918 Finnish Civil War: after the war between the Whites (conservatives) and Reds (socialists) that resulted in a loss of 36,640 lives, Suomen kuvalehti began to publish a column dedicated to perished Whites – with the same name as the book to come. The purpose was to remember the deceased heroes and consecrate their names for future generations. Making a point of honouring victims was a way for the winning side to bolster a certain Finnish identity.

Despite numerous defeats in the Winter War, after the war it has been discussed in an ennobled manner. As the story goes, a small nation managed to beat the great and mighty Soviet Union. The notion of the spirit of the Winter War was born, referring to success on the battlefield, a sense of solidarity in general as well as healing from the Civil War. AS the book proves, this time all Finnish deceased soldiers qualified as redeemers of liberty, as the holy war was waged on a unified front against an external enemy.

The Winter War continues to hold a special place in political discourse in Finland, whether hankering for its spirit to crush an economic downturn, or mentioned in the context of security policy. The underlying notion is always freedom and independence redeemed through bloodshed and solidarity. Politics of today is built on a foundation of deceased soldiers.

Soldiers killed during times of war and peace are repeatedly harnessed for political ends. But when you stare at the faces of deceased soldiers one by one, also taking in their names, hometown, profession and age, politics are pushed aside and replaced with a sense of urgency, sadness and reflection on how the war affected each family and village. As a group, the deceased war heroes were important on a national level, but as individuals, their deaths feel like nothing but a loss. What use is it to anyone that all three brothers of a family living in a small village died? Or when a recent graduate gets killed after just two days on the front?

After gazing at the images long enough, one faces what I would call a problem with scalability. Deceased soldiers are important citizens and subordinates, but as individuals they are nothing but a loss. Dying as a war hero does not leave behind warmth, love, work or prosperity for family and friends. Instead, war death is always a violent end that results in immeasurable sorrow.

---------

For this project, I have scanned all the main characters (26,662) in the The Price of Our Liberty book, and at the moment I am reworking the images into new works. Altogether there will be 100 portraits, about ten constructed appropriations and a installation work. Each of the portraits will be made up of 109-300 overlaid head shots. Constructed appropriations are based on images collected from newspapers in recent years. 
















The Price of Our Liberty
2017
each image 25,2 x 21 cm
Archival ink print, mounted onto composite aluminium
The installation consists altogether 100 portraits.


-------




Minister of Defence of Finland and another politician with Assault Rifles
2017
68,5 x 94,5 cm
Archival ink print, framed, glass




HX Fighter Program
2017
56,5 x 78 cm
Archival ink print, framed, museum glass




Protest
2017
68,5 x 94,5 cm
Archival ink print, framed, museum




Squadron 2020
2017
56,5 x 78 cm
Archival ink print, framed, museum





Installation photo from Galeria H2O, Barcelona 5/2017.




Installation photo from Galeria H2O, Barcelona 5/2017.




Installation photo from Galeria H2O, Barcelona 5/2017.





------------